Kidman fights dames for Olivier

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The Independent Online
THE HOLLYWOOD star Nicole Kidman will have to compete against two theatrical dames for one of the highest honours in British theatre.

Kidman, who appeared in David Hare's The Blue Room and was described by one critic as "pure theatrical Viagra", has been shortlisted for the best-actress prize on 12 February in the Laurence Olivier Awards alongside Dame Diana Rigg (Phedre and Britannicus) and Dame Judi Dench (Philumena). Two other acclaimed British actresses, Eileen Atkins (The Unexpected Man), and Sinead Cusack, (Our Lady of Sligo) are also shortlisted.

Hollywood makes its presence felt in the best-actor category too. Kevin Spacey, star of the film The Usual Suspects, is shortlisted for his stage role in The Iceman Cometh at The Old Vic last year and will face competition from Michael Gambon (The Unexpected Man), Iain Glen (The Blue Room), Jim Norton (The Weir) and David Suchet (Amadeus).

But the shortlists are dominated by the National Theatre's Oklahoma!, which has nine nominations, including outstanding musical production and best director for Trevor Nunn. The Blue Room, Hare's adaptation of Schnitzler's La Ronde, follows with six nominations, including best new play, best director, best actor and best actress. Conor McPherson's The Weir is nominated for best new play and best director.

One of the most interesting and ironic nominations is for outstanding achievement in opera. Nominees include the orchestra of the Royal Opera House "for its consistently outstanding musicianship". Last year it was threatened with cancellation of this year's season because of Royal Opera House cutbacks, a threat now amended to playing a shorter season.

In the nominations for best play, Blue Room will compete against Copenhagen, Michael Frayn's meditation on the origins of the H-bomb; The Weir, McPherson's lyrical examination of love and loss in rural Ireland; and The Unexpected Man, which tells of the chance meeting on a train between a well-known writer and a fan.

Whistle down the Wind, Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical, which received a lukewarm reception from the critics, is nominated in the best new musical category. It competes against Rent, Jonathan Larson's hip reworking of the La Boheme story, Saturday Night Fever, the first stage version of the 1977 film, and Kat and the Kings, a high-energy South African import. The entire South African cast of Kat and the Kings received a collective nomination for best actor in a musical.

In the outstanding musical production category, all the works nominated are revivals of Broadway musicals. Oklahoma! is joined by Into the Woods, Annie and Show Boat.