THE NEW YEAR HONOURS: Musicals top the bill

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The Independent Online

Arise Sir SuperMac. Cameron Mackintosh, the theatre impresario who brought Miss Saigon, Oliver, Five Guys Named Mo and Phantom of the Opera to the stage, was celebrating his knighthood yesterday at his snowbound Scottish estate.

He was joined on the New Year honours list by some of the most popular names from the world of arts and media including the pop star Elton John, CBE, the artist Beryl Cook, OBE, the dancer Antoinette Sibling, DBE, agony aunt Claire Rayner, OBE, and the Rev Wilbert Awdry,OBE, creator of Thomas the Tank Engine.

Sir Cameron, 49, who has created some of the most successful musicals in the world and is renowned for his first-night parties, was in the Western Highlands this weekend where the telephones were down. "We are absolutely delighted for him, but we can't even ring to congratulate him," Nick Allott, his executive producer, said.

"It is very well deserved, because he has worked very hard for 30 years and presided over a change in the whole face of British theatre which has transformed it into a world leader."

Among his most successful shows is the musical adaptation of Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables, which he dubbed "the Glums". It has taken pounds 600m at the box office and been seen by 41 million people in London, New York, Japan and on tour.

He began his career sweeping the dress circle at Drury Lane Theatre, and he worked as a theatre hand for pounds 14 a week. He broke into the big time in 1981, when he worked with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber on Cats.

Although there have been flops, including Moby Dick, his shows make pounds 1.7m a week and he is worth pounds 200m.

Another great British showman honoured yesterday was Elton John, best- known for the flamboyant performances of his ballad-style songs. Britain's second highest earning pop star, on pounds 12.5m, after Phil Collins, he is at present working on a musical based on Verdi's opera Aida. He was also commended in the honours list for his charitable work, including his Elton John Aids Foundation.

The film world was honoured with a CBE for Nicolas Roeg, the unconventional director who scandalised his producers with Performance in 1968, starring Mick Jagger. He also made Don't Look Now, which included a controversial sex scene between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, and Bad Timing, which starred Theresa Russell, who became his wife.

Women were well represented in the arts and media on the honours list, with appointments including the actress Peggy Mount, OBE, best-known as the formidable battleaxe Ma Larkin in the Sixties television series The Larkins; Julie Goodyear MBE, the former Coronation Street star; Jill Paton-Walsh CBE, the children's writer, and Frances Line OBE, controller of BBC Radio 2.

Claire Rayner has already been dubbed affectionately "Old Bag Extraordinaire" by her family for her appointment. Ms Rayner, who has had four operations in the last five weeks for a torn cartilage in her knee, said she was a little startled to hear the news, but added: "It's like getting a big tick from teacher."