Oliviers will be Theatreland’s ‘biggest marketing event ever’

The Olivier Award statuette
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This year’s Olivier Awards will be the single biggest marketing opportunity that London’s theatre industry has ever seen, according to its producer the Society of London Theatre.

The ceremony, which will be screened on ITV via a late evening highlights package and will be broadcast live on BBC Radio 2, takes place this Sunday at the Royal Opera House in London.

Julian Bird, chief executive of SOLT, said: “The Oliviers celebrate the excellence of what’s happened in theatre the year before and it is also our one chance to show everyone in the UK and around the world what London theatre is all about in one night. This is the biggest single marketing opportunity we have as a theatre community and that’s what we are trying to use it for.”

He added: “We’ve got a great show this year live at the Royal Opera House and live in the Covent Garden Piazza and I think we will have a great TV show too.”

For the second year running, the show will be broadcast on screens to the general public at a free event in Covent Garden Piazza outside the ROH. The BBC’s Claudia Winkleman and West End performer Michael Xavier will host the Piazza stage, where there will be performances from the four shortlisted BBC Radio 2 Audience Award nominees – Billy Elliot The Musical, Matilda The Musical, The Phantom Of The Opera and Wicked.

Bird said there would also be some surprise elements to the ceremony and activities in the piazza. Details of West End stars due to present awards, extra performances and the interplay between the piazza and inside the ROH are yet to be revealed, he said.

As has already been announced, the ceremony will feature solo performances from Matthew Morrison and Idina Menzel and show extracts from nominated productions such as Cabaret, starring Will Young, A Chorus Line and Top Hat. Heather Headley will perform I Will Always Love You from The Bodyguard and James Bourne will give an exclusive performance from nominated musical Loserville, which he co-wrote.

Sheridan Smith and Hugh Bonneville are hosting the ceremony and Arlene Phillips, Kim Cattrall, Tim Minchin, Daniel Radcliffe and David Suchet are among those who will present awards.

This year is the first time that the Oliviers have been broadcast on mainstream television in more than a decade.

Bird said that although previous broadcasts (by the BBC) included documentary elements about the theatre industry alongside footage from the awards, this year’s will be a straight live edit. The 90-minute long highlights package will begin at 10.15pm this Sunday.

Last year the BBC ‘red button’ on-demand service broadcast the ceremony live, as did the Olivier’s official website.

However, Bird said that this year there would be no live streaming available. There will instead be filmed excerpts of the show that are not included in the ITV package, which will be made available on the Oliviers website after the event.

“When you do a major TV broadcast like this one with ITV there is a lot of cost and work involved and you have to give a degree of exclusivity to that broadcaster to allow them to do that,” he said.

Bird said SOLT and ITV had discussed which parts of the show would be included in the highlights package.

He said that, although it would be “totally unrealistic” to expect full coverage on a mainstream channel, in the future SOLT would like to see a longer and earlier slot for the TV broadcast.

“We’ve started thinking about 2014’s show. We are in talks with some people, but let’s hope we get through this year and rate well on TV first. We would love to do a long-term television deal so that we have some certainty going forward.”