The shortlist for The Stage Debut Awards 2018, in association with Access Entertainment, has been announced, with nominees hailing from the West End’s longest-running musical to theatres in Bolton, Nottingham, Mold and Manchester.
The Stage Debut Awards are now in their second year. They celebrate emerging theatre talent from across the industry in venues spanning the UK.
They are nominated alongside a host of established performers making their West End debuts, including Aidan Turner, Kelli O’Hara, Ashley Banjo and Bryan Cranston.
Among those shortlisted in the performance categories is Amara Okereke, who made her professional debut in Les Miserables , becoming the first black woman to play Cosette in the musical’s 30-year history.
She is nominated for best actress in a musical, one of 16 performers shortlisted for their debut roles in plays and musicals in the past year.
Other musical theatre nominees include Teleri Hughes for Spring Awakening at the Hope Mill Theatre  in Manchester, Louis Gaunt for Oklahoma! at Grange Park Opera  and Will Carey for It’s Only Life at London’s Union Theatre,  produced by Aria Entertainment.
Meanwhile in the play categories, nominees include Grainne O’Mahony and Alex Wilson for The Elephant Man  at Bristol Old Vic, Chris Walley for The Lieutenant of Inishmore  in the West End, and Gemma Dobson for Rita, Sue and Bob Too at Bolton’s Octagon Theatre, produced by Out of Joint, the Octagon and the Royal Court.
In the offstage categories, nominees include designers Fin Redshaw , Basia Binkowska , Khadija Raza  and Jasmine Swan , and composers Gus Gowland , Kate Marlais  and Matt Winkworth .
Playwrights Natasha Gordon , Kendall Feaver , Joe White , Andrew Thompson  and Georgia Christou  are shortlisted for the best writer award, while the nominees for the directing category are Alexandra Moxon for Wreck  at Nottingham Playhouse, Oscar Pearce for Great Apes  at the Arcola, Katy Rudd for The Almighty Sometimes  at Manchester’s Royal Exchange and Iwan Lewis for One Minute  at the Barn in Cirencester.
The Joe Allen Best West End Debut award features 10 nominees. Turner, O’Hara, Banjo and Cranston are nominated alongside Lucie Shorthouse and John McCrea for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Adrienne Warren for Tina: The Tina Turner Musical and Michelle Greenidge for Nine Night. The list also includes Mohammad Amiri for The Jungle, as well as the play’s creators Joe Robertson and Joe Murphy, who are the only non-performers on the list.
Unlike all other categories, nominees in this category can have worked elsewhere but appeared in the West End for the first time in the past year. ‘West End’ is defined by the same criteria as Olivier Awards eligibility – membership of the Society of London Theatre.
It is also the only category that will be put to public vote . All others are judged by a panel that includes The Stage’s editor Alistair Smith and reviews editor Natasha Tripney, alongside The Stage associate editors Lyn Gardner and Mark Shenton and critics Tim Bano, Sam Marlowe and Bridget Minamore.
Smith said: “After the huge success of The Stage Debut Awards’ first outing in 2017, we’re delighted to reveal another superb shortlist of emerging stars that ranges from first-time playwrights in pub theatres to regional directors and those making their debuts on the biggest West End stages. This list underlines the astonishing array of diverse talent breaking through in theatres of all scales and types across the UK.”
The Stage Debut Awards will take place on Sunday September 23 in London.