Olivier Awards bow to pressure and launch music prize

The Olivier Award statuette
The Olivier Award statuette
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Musical supervisors and orchestrators have secured a victory in their campaign to be honoured at the Olivier Awards, with next year’s ceremony set to include a brand new prize category for which they will be eligible.

Campaigners have been calling on the Society of London Theatre to honour musical directors/supervisors and orchestrators since 2011, with leading figures – including Mike Dixon and Gareth Valentine – calling the lack of a category honouring their peers a “serious oversight”.

Now, SOLT has revealed plans to introduce an outstanding achievement in music category at next year’s ceremony, which it said “will bring together potential nominations across the music fields” including “composition of original music for plays, orchestration and musical supervision/direction”.

Dixon, whose credits include music supervisor of We Will Rock You and The Bodyguard, said: “The most important aspect of this award is that finally the Oliviers are respecting the fact that music and musicians play a central role in musical theatre. After a couple of years campaigning for some recognition for musical supervisors and musical directors I am really pleased that from next year there is an award that recognises the huge contribution to the industry that all musicians make.”

Valentine, who has worked on Chicago and Wicked, added that the “Olivier Awards exist to draw attention to and reward the very best in theatre” and said: “Musical theatre is a hefty part of that enterprise and to have this new award recognise the contribution of musicians is both timely and hugely welcome. I congratulate the board on so doing.”

Next year’s Olivier Awards will take place on April 13 at the Royal Opera House. The cut off for eligible shows is February 25, 2014.

SOLT said more details of plans for the awards will be announced in January next year.

6 Comments

  1. Well done. The phrase is MUSICAL THEATRE not musical THEATRE. However, the music side of the business now needs to clean house and stop employing white stick owners and click track operators. Once upon a time there was a breed of musicians known as “Musical Directors”. They studied their craft long and hard, new how to conduct and how NOT to conduct. They could read a score, a FULL score mind you, hear wrong notes or missing vocal lines, the understood the nuance of strings bowing and of wind and brass articulations…but like all things of quality, they became marginalised in favour of people whose qualifications were the ability to buy the director/choreographer a cup of no cream, no foam, no chocolate, no fat, no taste all cost brown water from Starbucks (other makes of no cream, no foam, no chocolate, no fat, no taste all cost brown water are available). It’s fabulous that this recognition will be put in place and kudos to Mike and Gareth for their hard work on this but can it please recognise the musical people and not the tea ladies…

  2. And how are Oliver voters supposed to figure out what a Musical Supervisor does as opposed to the Musical Director who conducts the show sometimes as often as 5 shows a week? I have not been to a West End musical in the past five years where the Conductor on that particular evening was the one listed as the Musical Director in the programme. This category will simply turn into a popularity contest as to which Musical Supervisor has curried the most favor among West End Managements.

  3. I thoroughly agree with Mike’s sentiments. I know two Musical Directors who would be worthy of an Olivier and they’re not doing anything nearly commercial enough to be noticed for it. The number of MDs in the West End alone who can’t beat a simple four the right way round while being very vocal about this campaign makes me glad that the award will encompass all musical contributions from orchestrators and composers, who realise that what they do is a craft, and never stop working at perfecting it.

  4. I thoroughly agree with Mike’s sentiments. I know two Musical Directors who would be worthy of an Olivier and they’re not doing anything nearly commercial enough to be noticed for it. The number of MDs in the West End alone who can’t beat a simple four the right way round while being very vocal about this campaign makes me glad that the award will encompass all musical contributions from orchestrators and composers, who realise that what they do is a craft, and never stop working at perfecting it.

  5. In reply to Angelo, you appear to be on a bad streak regarding listed MDs so it’s probably not worth you doing the National Lottery at the moment. To be frank, an MD is not there to night in, night out dictate how the show will go. A good MD will be able to set up the band (with the supervisor) so that there is mutual trust and recognition of each other’s expertise. I cannot think of a show where the MD is a superior musician to the people in the orchestra (which I hinted at in my first post). A good MD will be able to maintain the musical standard of the show, understanding when tedium makes standards slip (and it WILL happen, be it “X Factor-the musical” of Mozart Symphony No. 40 after several months of 8 shows a week)helping the cast and band to recognise that excellence is not a chore. The audience may not, on the whole, have the analytical skills with which to make specific complaints, but music, in any and all forms is an emotional art form garnering an emotional response and not a process of intellect. Audiences may not know if a singer is sharp or a horn player is flat, but they will feel when it is right and when it is wrong and that is how their opinions will be formed. Yes, there will be favourites but that is the same in every other category so the only answer is to scrap the whole thing. IMHO.

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