Nominations for The Stage Awards producer of the year 2020 include ATG Productions, Fuel and Michael Harrison Entertainment
Any producer or production company – of any scale, subsidised or commercial – is eligible. Judged on criteria including (but not limited to) artistic quality, business success and innovation.
Award sponsored by PRG
Ambassador Theatre Group has long been known as the world’s largest theatre management company, with its production arm often playing second fiddle to its venue operation. But in 2019, ATG Productions – led by Adam Speers – stepped to the fore with two projects that displayed both genuine ambition and creative excellence.
The Pinter at the Pinter Season opened in 2018 but ran into 2019 culminating with a stand-alone production of Betrayal starring Zawe Ashton, Tom Hiddleston and Charlie Cox, which also transferred to New York. The season proper – overseen by director Jamie Lloyd – featured 20 one-act plays by Harold Pinter staged with all-star casts in the theatre that bears the late playwright’s name. It was an astonishing artistic achievement.
That this was only the second-most ambitious project of the year for ATG Productions was truly remarkable. The first – Ian McKellen On Stage – saw the great actor take his one-man show to 86 theatres across the UK, raising £3 million for charities, before an 80-date run in the West End, again at the Harold Pinter Theatre. It was an undertaking of huge scale, impressive generosity and complex logistics.
Other highlights of 2019 for ATG Productions included 9 to 5 the Musical, Caroline, Or Change in the West End, Touching the Void and Cyrano de Bergerac (again with Jamie Lloyd).
Producers come in all different shapes and sizes. Led by Kate McGrath, Fuel is an independent not-for-profit outfit that has consistently punched above its weight, playing a key role in developing some of the most exciting work of the last few years – both in the UK and beyond.
Nominated for this category last year, Fuel followed up that nomination with another extraordinarily productive and exciting year. Following a successful US tour, Inua Ellams’ Barber Shop Chronicles continued to wow audiences around the UK and also took up a summer residency at London’s Roundhouse.
It was followed by a London run for Fuel’s co-production of Touching the Void – a hugely ambitious project to transpose to the stage Joe Simpson’s memoir about surviving a fall while mountaineering in the Andes, which transferred to the Duke of York’s Theatre. Meanwhile, a new version of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, adapted by Ellams, has just opened at the National Theatre, co-produced by Fuel and the NT. A Fuel production of a third Ellams play – The Half God of Rainfall – played at the Kiln in London and Birmingham Rep, picking up five nominations at the Black British Theatre Awards.
Fuel was also busy at the Edinburgh International Festival, curating the You Are Here strand. Other 2019 highlights included Fly the Flag with Ai Weiwei to mark the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Having started out as a pantomime producer, Michael Harrison has now well and truly established himself among the premier league of West End musical theatre impresarios.
The year just gone saw him practically take up residence at the London Palladium: the annual pantomime has become a well-established and well-loved fixture of the Theatreland calendar. In 2019 it was joined at the theatre by a big budget, high-gloss revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, which looks set to become a summer staple.
The production also saw Harrison unearth a genuine new talent in The Stage Debut Award-winner Jac Yarrow, also honouring the young ArtsEd graduate by setting up a scholarship at the drama school in his name.
Outside the West End, Harrison continued to oversee Qdos’ impressive stable of pantos, plus the ongoing global roll-out of his musical production of The Bodyguard. In the UK, these were joined by the hugely successful stage adaptation of ITV comedy Benidorm, which, like The Bodyguard, Harrison co-produced with his regular collaborator David Ian.