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The Stage critics’ 2016 Olivier awards predictions

The Stage
The Stage is a British weekly newspaper and website covering the entertainment industry, and particularly theatre. It was founded in 1880. It contains news, reviews, opinion, features, and recruitment advertising.
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We asked our team of critics to pick their winners at this year’s Olivier Awards.
Next week, we’ll be marking them on the success of their forecasts…

Mark Shenton's forecasts

Mark-Shenton-2014Mark is associate editor of The Stage, as well as joint lead critic. He has written regularly for The Stage since 2005.

 

Best New Musical

Nominees:

• Bend It Like Beckham at Phoenix Theatre

• In the Heights at King’s Cross Theatre

• Kinky Boots at Adelphi Theatre

• Mrs Henderson Presents at Noel Coward Theatre

Should win: Bend It Like Beckham

Will win: Kinky Boots

Why? Bend It Like Beckham is the best and most authentically British musical in years. It celebrated London’s rich diversity and had a score to match. But the ersatz Kinky Boots, also set in Britain, has come by way of Broadway and is the popular hit. I’d like to be wrong, but the voters will back perceived commercial success.


David Haig in Guys and Dolls. Photo: Paul Coltas
David Haig in Guys and Dolls. Photo: Paul Coltas

Best Musical Revival

Nominees:

• Bugsy Malone at Lyric Hammersmith

• Guys and Dolls at Savoy Theatre

• Gypsy at Savoy Theatre

• Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

Should win: Gypsy

Will win: Gypsy

Why? Jonathan Kent’s loving, period perfect musical of this Broadway classic – back on the London stage for the first time since it received its UK premiere more than 40 years ago – was easily the best revival of the year and a sell-out hit.


Peter Pan Goes Wrong. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Peter Pan Goes Wrong. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Best New Comedy

Nominees:

• A Christmas Carol at Noel Coward Theatre

• Hand to God at Vaudeville Theatre

• Nell Gwynn at Apollo Theatre

• Peter Pan Goes Wrong at Apollo Theatre

Should win: Peter Pan Goes Wrong

Will win: Peter Pan Goes Wrong

Why? A hard category to call, as two outstanding candidates were both very funny for very different reasons. Nell Gwynn is richer and deeper as a portrait of theatrical London, but the sheer organised chaos of Peter Pan Goes Wrong, from previous Olivier winners Mischief Theatre Company, was also an utter delight.


Matt Henry in Kinky Boots. Photo: Matt Crocket
Matt Henry in Kinky Boots. Photo: Matt Crocket

Best Actor in a Musical

Nominees:

• Ian Bartholomew for Mrs Henderson Presents at Noel Coward Theatre

• Killian Donnelly for Kinky Boots at Adelphi Theatre

• David Haig for Guys and Dolls at Savoy Theatre

• Matt Henry for Kinky Boots at Adelphi Theatre

• Jamie Parker for Guys and Dolls at Savoy Theatre

Should win: Jamie Parker for Guys and Dolls

Will win: Jamie Parker for Guys and Dolls

Why? Parker has already won a UK Theatre award for this performance for his run at Chichester, and will now deservedly add an Olivier. Previously associated with appearing with the original cast of The History Boys and for playing Shakespearean roles at the Globe, his transition to musicals has been effortless.


Laura Pitt-Pulford in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Laura Pitt-Pulford in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Best Actress in a Musical

Nominees:

• Tracie Bennett for Mrs Henderson Presents at Noel Coward Theatre

• Natalie Dew for Bend It Like Beckham at Phoenix Theatre

• Laura Pitt-Pulford for Seven Brides for Seven Brothers at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

• Imelda Staunton for Gypsy at Savoy Theatre

• Sophie Thompson for Guys and Dolls at Savoy Theatre

Should win: Imelda Staunton for Gypsy

Will win: Imelda Staunton for Gypsy

Why? This is as sure a bet as any: they can engrave the statue now for Staunton, who seized the role of Momma Rose with ferocity and fearlessness but also revealed a gritty vulnerability. A special place at the top table should be reserved for Natalie Dew, who in her first-ever stage role was breathtaking as an aspiring footballer in Bend It Like Beckham.


Peter Davison in Gypsy. Photo: Johan Persson
Peter Davison in Gypsy. Photo: Johan Persson

Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical

Nominees:

• David Bedella for In the Heights at King’s Cross Theatre

• Dan Burton for Gypsy at Savoy Theatre

• Peter Davison for Gypsy at Savoy Theatre

• Gavin Spokes for Guys and Dolls at Savoy Theatre

Should win: Peter Davison for Gypsy

Will win: Peter Davison for Gypsy

Why? Herbie is one of the invisible characters of Gypsy – a real Mr Cellophane, who usually disappears in the scenery already eaten by Momma Rose. But Peter Davison brought such tenderness and sensitivity to Herbie that his story also broke the heart. Dan Burton danced up a storm as Tulsa in the same production, really earning his nomination, too.


Emma Williams in Mrs Henderson Presents. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Emma Williams in Mrs Henderson Presents. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical

Nominees:

• Preeya Kalidas for Bend It Like Beckham at Phoenix Theatre

• Amy Lennox for Kinky Boots at Adelphi Theatre

• Lara Pulver for Gypsy at Savoy Theatre

• Emma Williams for Mrs Henderson Presents at Noel Coward Theatre

Should win: Emma Williams for Mrs Henderson Presents

Will win: Lara Pulver for Gypsy

Why? Emma Williams is one of the unsung heroines of British musical theatre, creating a body of work – mostly in new musicals – that has been extraordinary. She adds to her accomplishments this year by going starkers in Mrs Henderson Presents. But Lara Pulver, also stripping in Gypsy, reveals a lot, too (without truly going nude).


Jersey Boys. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Jersey Boys. Photo: Tristram Kenton

This Morning Audience Award

Nominees:

• Jersey Boys

• Matilda the Musical

• Les Miserables

• The Phantom of the Opera

Should win: Matilda the Musical

Will win: Les Miserables

Why? This category is chosen by public vote and they’re the ones who actually buy the tickets. They’ve been doing that for Les Miserables for more than 30 years now, and it has long been advertised as the world’s favourite musical. I expect the vote to go to it. But my own vote would go to Matilda, still the freshest and most original musical in town.


Natasha Tripney’s forecasts

_Natasha-Tripney-4-at-The-Stage-Awards-January-29th-2016-by-Eliza-Power-2Natasha is The Stage’s reviews editor and joint lead critic.

 

Best new play

Nominees:

•Farinelli and the King at Duke of York’s Theatre

• The Father at Wyndham’s Theatre

• Hangmen at Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court

• People, Places and Things at the Dorfman, National Theatre, and Wyndham’s Theatre

Should win: People, Places and Things

Will win: Hangmen

Why? So much of the power of People, Places and Things comes from Denise Gough’s lightening bolt of a performance that it’s all too easy to overlook how tightly constructed and eloquent Duncan Macmillan’s play is about the intricate interplay between performance, recovery and addiction, and the masks people wear every day.


Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Photo: Johan Persson
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. Photo: Johan Persson

Best revival

Nominees:

• Hamlet at the Barbican Theatre

• Les Liaisons Dangereuses at Donmar Warehouse

• Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the Lyttelton, National Theatre

• The Winter’s Tale at Garrick Theatre

Should win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Will win: Hamlet

Why? Dominic Cooke’s polished production of August Wilson’s play – an intelligent piece of programming by Rufus Norris – was an excellent example of ensemble acting, with Sharon D Clarke’s performance in the title role only the tip of the iceberg. The cast, including Lucian Msamati, delivered superb performances all round, and the production as a whole was compelling, evocative and often chilling.


Oresteia. Photo: Manuel Harlan
Oresteia. Photo: Manuel Harlan

Best director

Nominees:

• Rob Ashford and Kenneth Branagh for The Winter’s Tale at Garrick Theatre

• Matthew Dunster for Hangmen at Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at Royal Court and Wyndham’s Theatre

• Robert Icke for Oresteia at Almeida Theatre

• Jonathan Kent for Gypsy at Savoy Theatre

Should win: Robert Icke

Will win: Robert Icke

Why? Robert Icke’s Oresteia was one of the most confident productions of 2015. Icke never wastes a second of stage time – no easy thing in a production running more than three hours. His work is precise, with a clear aesthetic sense, but it’s also emotionally rich and he’s capable of drawing superb performances from his cast.


Mark Rylance in Farinelli and the King. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Mark Rylance in Farinelli and the King. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Best actor

Nominees:

• Kenneth Branagh for The Winter’s Tale at Garrick Theatre

• Kenneth Cranham for The Father at Wyndham’s Theatre

• Benedict Cumberbatch for Hamlet at Barbican Theatre

• Adrian Lester for Red Velvet at Garrick Theatre

• Mark Rylance for Farinelli and the King at Duke of York’s Theatre

Should win: Kenneth Cranham

Will win: Mark Rylance

Why? While I’m the minority in finding The Father a bit overwrought, Kenneth Cranham was superb as a man slowly being undone by dementia, his performance a mix of frustration, arrogance, sparkle and heart-piercing vulnerability, eloquently capturing the loss of dignity and the loss of self, a process of erasure that was, at times, painful to watch.


Denise Gough in People, Places and Things. Photo: Johan Persson
Denise Gough in People, Places and Things. Photo: Johan Persson

Best actress

Nominees:

• Gemma Arterton for Nell Gwynn at Apollo Theatre

• Denise Gough for People, Places and Things at Dorfman, National Theatre

• Nicole Kidman for Photograph 51 at Noel Coward Theatre

• Janet McTeer for Les Liaisons Dangereuses at Donmar Warehouse

• Lia Williams for Oresteia at Almeida theatre

Should win: Denise Gough

Will win: Denise Gough

Why? Gough was revelatory in People, Places and Things, her performance one of immense control. It was incredibly physical – limbs and jaw quivering and twitching – and transformative, a woman unravelling before your eyes, falling apart and struggling to slowly piece herself together again. It was exhausting just to watch her, in the best possible sense.


Mark Gatiss in Three Days in the Country. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Mark Gatiss in Three Days in the Country. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Best actor in a supporting role

Nominees:

• Mark Gatiss for Three Days in the Country at Lyttelton, National Theatre

• Michael Pennington for The Winter’s Tale at Garrick Theatre

• Tom Sturridge for American Buffalo at Wyndham’s Theatre

• David Suchet for The Importance of Being Earnest at Vaudeville theatre

Should win: Mark Gatiss

Will win: Mark Gatiss

Why? This award ought to go to Angus Wright for Oresteia at the Almeida. Since he hasn’t even been nominated, it should be Gatiss for his scene-stealing yet not ungenerous turn in the National’s production of Three Days in the Country, a performance that shifts from broad comedy to something altogether more nuanced and poignant as the play progresses.


Judi Dench in The Winter's Tale. Photo: Johan Persson
Judi Dench in The Winter's Tale. Photo: Johan Persson

Best actress in a supporting role

Nominees:

• Judi Dench for The Winter’s Tale at Garrick Theatre

• Michele Dotrice for Nell Gwynn at Apollo Theatre

• Melody Grove for Farinelli and the King at Duke of York’s Theatre

• Catherine Steadman for Oppenheimer at Vaudeville Theatre

Should win: Melody Grove

Will win: Judi Dench

Why? To hold one’s own against Mark Rylance on stage is no easy thing. To do so while also performing alongside counter tenors of the calibre of Iestyn Davies is also quite a feat. Grove did both while also giving an incredibly warm, sympathetic and layered performance as the Queen to Rylance’s King.


George Hall’s forecasts

George-HallGeorge writes widely on opera and has contributed regularly to The Stage since 2000

 

Best new opera production

Nominees:

• Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci at the Royal Opera House

• Morgen Und Abend at the ROH

• The Force of Destiny at English National Opera

Should win: Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci

Will win: The Force of Destiny

Why? Morgen Und Abend would be an earnest, worthy choice rather than a popular one. Damiano Michieletto’s production of the verismo double-bill made up for the disaster of his William Tell earlier in the year; but the perfectly understandable groundswell of support for ENO may swing things for Calixto Bieito’s sex’n’violence staging of Verdi’s epic.


Felicity Palmer with Peter Hoare in The Queen Of Spades. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Felicity Palmer with Peter Hoare in The Queen Of Spades. Photo: Tristram Kenton

Outstanding achievement in opera

Nominees:

• Antonio Pappano

• ENO chorus and orchestra

• Felicity Palmer in The Queen of Spades

• Tamara Wilson in The Force of Destiny

Should win: ENO chorus and orchestra

Will win: Felicity Palmer in The Queen of Spades

Why? Tamara Wilson’s Leonora was a fine performance, and Pappano deserves an award every year. If ENO’s The Force of Destiny wins the production award, my guess is that veteran Felicity Palmer, at 71, has garnered enough widespread public affection for an award recognising her long career of uniform excellence.


Neil Norman’s forecasts

Neil-NormanNeil is a playwright and critic. He is a longstanding contributor of dance reviews to The Stage

 

Best new dance production

Nominees:

• Romeo Et Juliette by Les Ballets de Monte Carlo at the London Coliseum

• Woolf Works by Wayne McGregor at the Royal Opera House

• He Who Falls (Celui Qui Tombe) by Compagnie Yoann Bourgeois at the Barbican

Should win: Woolf Works

Will win: Woolf Works

Why? Wayne McGregor’s interpretation of three of Virgina Woolf’s novels respected the source material while exploring it in a new dimension with extraordinary fluency.


The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud. Photo: Evan Li
The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud. Photo: Evan Li

Outstanding achievement in dance

Nominees:

• Sasha Waltz for her choreography of Sacre at Sadler’s Wells

• Alessandra Ferri for her performances in Cheri and Woolf Works at the ROH

• Javier de Frutos for his choreography of The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud at the Linbury Studio, the ROH

Should win: Javier de Frutos

Will win: Alessandra Ferri

Why? De Frutos’ The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud was that rare thing – an entirely original work suffused with humour and humanity, but Ferri’s triumphant return to the Royal Ballet at the age of 52 will win hearts and minds.

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