Young Vic and Sunny Afternoon win big at 2015 Olivier Awards

Young Vic's A View from the Bridge wins a hat-trick at the Olivier Awards (Credit: Jan Versweyveld)

Young Vic’s A View from the Bridge wins a hat-trick at the Olivier Awards (Credit: Jan Versweyveld)

This year’s Olivier Awards have seen The Young Vic take away four prizes, picking up the award for outstanding achievement in an affiliate theatre for its production of Bull, and scoring a hat-trick for A View from the Bridge winning best revival, best director for Ivo van Hove and best actor for Mark Strong.

Accepting his award, Strong reflected on how A View from the Bridge had drawn in young audience members: ‘What has been amazing is the young people who came to see it, they all wanted to talk about what they were seeing. A 12-year-old boy asked me what is the purpose of theatre – I’ve never been in a production people wanted to talk about more.’

Kinks jukebox musical Sunny Afternoon dominated the musical categories, taking four out of five awards it was nominated for, winning: outstanding achievement in music, best actor in a supporting role in a musical for George Maguire, best actor in a musical for John Dagleish, and the title for best new musical.

Sunny Afternoon was the big musical winner of the evening (Credit: Alastair Muir)

Sunny Afternoon was the big musical winner of the evening (Credit: Alastair Muir)

Despite receiving 17 nominations between them, both Memphis the Musical and Beautiful – The Carole King Musical took home just two prizes each – best sound design and best theatre choreographer for Memphis, and Beautiful’s actresses taking best actress in a supporting role in a musical for Lorna Want and best actress in a musical for Katie Brayben.

Other highlights of the evening included the presentation of the best actress in a supporting role award to Angela Lansbury. Receiving her first Olivier Award aged 89 to a standing ovation, the actress said: ‘I’m creeping up to 90 and feeling like a million dollars because I’m in London.’ Lansbury’s role in Blithe Spirit at the Gielgud Theatre is her first in the West End in 40 years. In celebration of his tenure as artistic director at the Old Vic, Kevin Spacey was presented with a special award by Judi Dench. Spacey is due to step down from his role this autumn, to be succeeded by Matthew Warchus.

Olivier Award winners 2015

Best revival
A View from the Bridge at the Young Vic and Wyndham’s Theatre

Best actor in a supporting role
Nathaniel Parker for Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies at the Aldwych Theatre

Best actress in a supporting role
Angela Lansbury for Blithe Spirit at the Gielgud Theatre

Best entertainment and family
La Soiree at La Soiree Spiegeltent

Best lighting design
Howard Harrison for City of Angels at the Donmar Warehouse

Best sound design
Gareth Owen for Memphis the Musical at the Shaftesbury Theatre

Best costume design
Christopher Oram for Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies at the Aldwych Theatre

Best set design
Es Devlin for The Nether at the Duke of York’s Theatre

Best new dance production
32 Rue Vandenbranden by Peeping Tom at the Barbican;
Mats Ek’s Juliet and Romeo by Royal Swedish Ballet at Sadler’s Wells

Outstanding achievement in dance
Crystal Pite for her choreography in the productions of The Associates – A Picture Of You Falling, The Tempest Replica and Polaris at Sadler’s Wells

Best new play
King Charles III at the Almeida Theatre and Wyndham’s Theatre

Best actor
Mark Strong for A View from the Bridge at the Young Vic and Wyndham’s Theatre

Best actress
Penelope Wilton for Taken At Midnight at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

Audience award
Wicked at the Apollo Victoria Theatre

Best new comedy
The Play That Goes Wrong at the Duchess Theatre

Best musical revival
City of Angels at the Donmar Warehouse

Outstanding achievement in an affiliate theatre
Bull at the Maria at the Young Vic

Best theatre choreographer
Sergio Trujillo for Memphis The Musical at the Shaftesbury Theatre

Best director
Ivo van Hove for A View from the Bridge at the Young Vic and Wyndham’s Theatre

Outstanding achievement in music
Ray Davies for Sunny Afternoon at Hampstead Theatre and the Harold Pinter Theatre

Best actor in a supporting role in a musical
George Maguire for Sunny Afternoon at Hampstead Theatre and the Harold Pinter Theatre

Best actress in a supporting role in a musical
Lorna Want for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at the Aldwych Theatre

Best actor in a musical
John Dagleish for Sunny Afternoon at Hampstead Theatre and the Harold Pinter Theatre

Best actress in a musical
Katie Brayben for Beautiful – The Carole King Musical at the Aldwych Theatre

Best new musical
Sunny Afternoon at Hampstead Theatre and the Harold Pinter Theatre

Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Stephen Ward the musical to close in early

The curtain is to fall on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s latest show Stephen Ward, a musical interpretation of the Profumo scandal, after less than four months following disappointing ticket sales. The musical, which cost £2.5m to stage, opened at the Aldwych Theatre on 19 December.

Untitled jStephen Ward producer Robert Fox said in a statement: ‘I am very sad to see the show close in London but firmly believe this piece will be seen by many audiences in the future.’

In response to the criticism the show had received, Lloyd Webber said in a letter to The Telegraph: ‘The difference between success and failure in musical theatre is a horrifyingly fine line. However, I believe that if you choose a subject purely because it appears commercial, catastrophe looms’.

According to statistics from The Society of London Theatre, out of the 24 longest-running shows on London’s West End, five are Andrew Lloyd Webber productions (Details correct as of November 2013: The Phantom of the Opera, Cats, Starlight Express, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita).

Stephen Ward runs at the Aldwych Theatre until 29 March www.stephenwardthemusical.com

National Theatre: The Light Princess – Performance review

Nick Hendrix as Digby and Rosalie Craig as Althea in the National Theatre's The Light Princess

Nick Hendrix as Digby and Rosalie Craig as Althea in the National Theatre’s The Light Princess

Star rating
*****
There are all sorts of reasons to bring students to see this production.
By Sarah Lambie, TD editor

Comparisons are weak for a show which has a beauty all of its own, but to put the National Theatre’s new musical by Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson into context, I am drawn to reference The Wizard of Oz (and, by extension, Wicked) and The Pillowman, by Martin McDonagh, combined in both magic and darkness through the eyes of the brothers Grimm.

In reality, the original core of the story was written by the Victorian Englishman George MacDonald: friend to Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll of Alice in Wonderland. It draws on a rich history of fairy tale – the traditional subject matter of prince and princess, warring kingdoms, indiscriminately evil baddies – but has that dark and human edge that was lost when the Grimms’ and Hans Christian Andersen tales were taken over by Disney. Its emotional heart has depth and truth which are as compelling for an adult audience (almost exclusively so on the press night I attended) as for the young people for whom the piece is ostensibly written.

Amos and Adamson tread the line carefully between the cliché and the seemingly new, and the musical writing helps a good deal in creating a sense that something unexpected is happening here – the orchestration is imaginative, and while there are only really a couple of melodies one takes away after the first hearing, it’s fulfilling musical whole.

Rae Smith’s designs for the production are nothing short of magical, and each new scene finds a different way to draw the audience’s eye around the stage. I suppose it could almost be accused of being distracting, but really I just felt that I ought to come back and see the show again in order to have a good look at the details I’d missed. There is, despite its beauty, no danger of the performances being upstaged by the set, because these too are wonderful: Rosalie Craig in the title role sings beautifully, and apparently effortlessly as well, despite being continually either harnessed to the flies or manhandled around the set by four acrobats whose strength, commitment and discretion gained the biggest cheer of all at the curtain call.

The choreography by Steven Hoggett is understated: this is not a dance show in the way that other musicals are, but as a fan of actors moving around the stage in a way that has been clearly designed (I know that others aren’t), I enjoyed it very much. This is an ensemble of individual actors with individual characters rather than the slightly homogenous sense that one can get from more traditional musical choruses. A central love scene in which the light princess never once touches the ground is also beautifully choreographed, and I found myself wanting it to go on for twice as long.

There are all sorts of reasons to bring students to see this production. While they will often concentrate only on the performances, this also has the potential to be inspirational for young people from the perspectives of direction, writing, composition, and design: set, lighting, and sound. On this latter subject, I must say that this was the third musical I’d seen in a week – one other being an extremely long-running and successful West End show – and the only one of the three in which I could hear without effort, or even downright irritation, every single syllable. A testament to the sound designer, Simon Baker, but also to the quality of the performers and a director (Marianne Elliott, whose recent successes for the National include War Horse and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time) who understood, in the minority it would sadly seem, that a microphone on an actor doesn’t negate the need for articulation and clarity. The piece also touches on a number of issues that arise both within drama and in other subjects – equality, fairness, peace, gender and sexual discrimination, conservation and the environment … there is much for students to discuss having watched what began as an ordinary fairy tale.

The audience of which I was a part at its official world premiere gave The Light Princess a standing ovation, and one of which I think it was utterly deserving.

The Light Princess, a new musical, by Tori Amos and Samuel Adamson, playing at the National Theatre until 9 January 2014.