Five awards for `She Loves Me'

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The Independent Online

Arts Correspondent

Some of the biggest names in West End theatre were snubbed last night by the judges of the Laurence Olivier awards, the premier awards for theatre.

The London ceremony at the Shaftesbury Theatre showed how far the theatregoing public can differ from critics. For the Olivier panel, made up of ordinary theatregoers, ignored several of the year's most critically acclaimed peformances.

There was no prize for Sir Peter Hall's Hamlet, nothing for Dame Maggie Smith for her performance in Three Tall Women, and nothing for Helen Mirren, who starred in A Month In The Country. And, in the biggest surprise, the revival of Lionel Bart's Oliver and its star, Jonathan Pryce, drew a blank.

Instead five awards went to the light romantic musical She Loves Me - it won Best Director (Scott Ellis), Best Actor in a Musical (John Gordon Sinclair), Best Revival of a Musical and the Best Supporting Performance (Tracie Bennett). Ruthie Henshall also won the Best Actress in a Musical award for She Loves Me.

My Night With Reg, the comedy which received some notoriety when John Sessions left the stage during a performance after forgetting his lines, collected Best Comedy award and David Bamber won Best Actor.

The Best Actress prize went to the highly talented Clare Higgins for her memorable evening in Tennessee Williams' Sweet Bird of Youth at the National Theatre. Another National production, Arthur Miller's Broken Glass, won the award for Best Play. Best Comedy Performance went to Niall Buggy for Dead Funny.

The chanteuse Maria Friedman won the Best Entertainment award, and Declan Donnellan won Best Director of a Play for As You Like It, which also won Best Revival.

Among the other principal award winners, the Royal Ballet crowned a fine season with Fearful Symmetries winning Best New Dance Production; English National Opera's Khovanschchina was Best New Opera; and Roberto Alagna won Outstanding Achievement in Opera for his performance in Romeo and Juliette at the Royal Opera House.

The Best Actor in a Supporting Role went to Ken Stott for Broken Glass. The Best Actress in a Supporting Role wasDora Bryan inHarold Pinter's The Birthday Party at the National Theatre.

The Best Musical award went to Once On This Island.