The Olivier Awards are always an exciting time for the theatre community and there was great anticipation as ITV were showing highlights of the award ceremony. Perhaps best not to discuss how ineffective these highlights were, with poor editing that cut performances and speeches. Instead I want to focus on some of the musicals that were nominated and the eventual winners, as there were a few surprises.
I must admit I didn’t know the nominations for Best New Musical beforehand so was beyond surprised to hear that Top Hat was the winner. What saddened me was that three of the four nominees can hardly be called ‘new’ as the songs are all well-known: Top Hat is based on a film from 1935! The Bodyguard is also based on a film and the songs of Whitney Houston, whilst Soul Sister revolves around the music of Tina Turner. So I think most of the theatre community had high hopes for the only original show nominated: Loserville. It may have had its short run against it, but the theatre world had a lot of respect for what it was attempting as a young show – but sadly it wasn’t to be.
At least we can expect better competition next year which will no doubt include The Book of Mormon (which missed out on being eligible this year), Once and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in the list of nominees. So can we just put it down to being a bad year?
However, for all the controversy of the Best New Musical, the BBC Radio 2 Audience Award certainly warmed my heart. The nominees were Billy Elliot, Wicked, The Phantom of the Opera and Matilda. Let’s be honest, after its domination of the Olivier Awards 2012 I was convinced the prize would go to Matilda, and I would have pinned Billy Elliot as the underdog after Phantom and Wicked, so a big grin appeared on my face when it was announced as the winner. The joy of audience awards is that people are getting their say on what they class as a worthy winner, so for a show that is now eight years old to win is very encouraging. Perhaps it’s due to a resurgence of relevance after the death of Margaret Thatcher, but I don’t want to detract from the show itself as I love the score (much fun can be had singing ‘Electricity’ around the house complete with Geordie accent).
It gets hard to defend musical theatre when shows with 70-year-old songs are winning awards for new shows, but when a musical like Billy Elliot wins the audience award, or indeed Sondheim’s masterpiece Sweeney Todd which won Best Revival, Best Actor and Best Actress, it makes the defence easier. As I said before, I just look forward to the Olivier Awards 2014 as I believe we will have a tougher competition on our hands – and who knows what will win the Audience Award next year!