The 2019 Olivier nominations’ big hitters, Marianne Elliott’s gender-swapped Company and Canadian musical Come from Away, each received nine nominations, but who will win big on the night? We asked our critics for their predictions
Tim Bano is joint lead critic for The Stage. He has also written for the Guardian and Time Out, and has worked as a producer on BBC Radio 4.
Best New Musical
• Come from Away at Phoenix Theatre
• Fun Home at Young Vic
• Six at Arts Theatre
• Tina – The Tina Turner Musical at Aldwych Theatre
Should win: Fun Home
Will win: Six
Why? You have the slick, commercial gloss and precision of the Tina Turner machine; the message of love and hope in Come from Away; the sadness and self-knowledge of growing up and coming out in Fun Home and the rawness of a new UK musical in Six. Each would win in a year with lesser competition, which makes predicting hard. But Come from Away has eight other chances, Six has four, and what Tina has in its head it lacks in its heart. So for me it’s Fun Home. But the judges will want to garland a new British creation that’s attracted younger audiences.
Best Musical Revival
• Caroline, Or Change at Playhouse Theatre
• Company at Gielgud Theatre
• The King and I at London Palladium
Should win: Caroline, Or Change and Company
Will win: Company
Why? Since the Oliviers have given out loads of collective nominations this year – the cast of Six, the Lehman Brothers in The Lehman Trilogy – why can’t they give out a collective award? Caroline, Or Change was such a blow-away revival of Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori’s musical (one of three by Tesori in London in one year) and Sharon D Clarke, playing a black maid in a white Jewish household in 1960s Louisiana, has rarely been better. But Company, a complete reinvention of Sondheim’s classic, will pip it.
Best Actor in a Musical
• Marc Antolin for Little Shop of Horrors at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
• Kobna Holdbrook-Smith for Tina – The Tina Turner Musical at Aldwych Theatre
• Zubin Varla for Fun Home at Young Vic
• Ken Watanabe for The King and I at London Palladium
Should win: Zubin Varla
Will win: Zubin Varla
Why? Ken Watanabe was fine in Bartlett Sher’s elegant revival of The King and I, but didn’t stand out compared to the others. Kobna Holdbrook-Smith managed to make the tricky part of Ike Turner, Tina’s abusive husband, neither too panto nor too diluted – a difficult balance – and Marc Antolin was great fun in Little Shop. But Zubin Varla’s got it in the bag. I hope so, anyway. He gave a knotty, twisted and tragic performance as the closeted, tortured father of Alison Bechdel in Fun Home.
Best Actress in a Musical
• Sharon D Clarke for Caroline, Or Change
• Rosalie Craig for Company
• Kelli O’Hara for The King and I
• Adrienne Warren for Tina – The Tina Turner Musical
Should win: Adrienne Warren
Will win: Adrienne Warren
Why? What a list. Each one should be showered with awards – Sharon D Clarke for her incredible acting and powerhouse voice; Rosalie Craig for showing how a woman can own her sexuality and have fun on stage; Kelli O’Hara for being one of the all-time Broadway greats. Yet not only was Adrienne Warren previously unknown to UK audiences, anyone who saw her performance would agree its intensity, raw charisma and the amount of energy it needed night after night – to go through that story eight times a week – earned her this one.
Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical
• Jonathan Bailey for Company
• Clive Carter for Come from Away
• Richard Fleeshman for Company
• Robert Hands for Come from Away
Should win: Jonathan Bailey
Will win: Jonathan Bailey
Why? Firstly, it seems a bit unfair to single out anyone from Come from Away, which is not only a big ensemble show, but is about coming together as one. Secondly, Jonathan Bailey has been plugging away as a strong stage and screen actor for years, from big TV dramas such as Broadchurch to an exquisite performance in the revival of The York Realist at the Donmar last year. But this role gave him a chance to showcase the best of what he can do: singing – and nailing – one of the most notoriously fiddly songs in musical theatre with Getting Married Today.
Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical
• Patti LuPone for Company
• Ruthie Ann Miles for The King and I
• The Queens – Aimie Atkinson, Alexia McIntosh, Millie O’Connell, Natalie Paris, Maiya Quansah-Breed and Jarneia Richard-Noel – for Six
• Rachel Tucker for Come from Away
Should win: The Queens
Will win: Patti LuPone
Why? Imagine if six women – of different ages and backgrounds – reclaiming the narrative of history from the ample embrace of Henry VIII
in a new British musical were all collectively honoured with an Olivier. But I suspect Queen Patti has this one in the bag. I mean, she was enticed out of retirement for this incredibly rare West End appearance and, while Six has had so much buzz and love, Patti is a much more bankable winner.
Natasha is The Stage’s reviews editor and joint lead critic.
• Adam Godley, Ben Miles and Simon Russell Beale for The Lehman Trilogy at Lyttelton, National Theatre
• Arinzé Kene for Misty at Trafalgar Studios 1
• Ian McKellen for King Lear at Duke of York’s Theatre
• Kyle Soller for The Inheritance at Young Vic and Noel Coward Theatre
• David Suchet for The Price at Wyndham’s Theatre
Should win: Ian McKellen
Will win: Ian McKellen
Why? A tough category, particularly given the inclusion of all three actors in The Lehman Trilogy (cheating surely). Kyle Soller anchors The Inheritance. It’s a performance of restraint and generosity, but Ian McKellen’s Lear was an astonishing piece of stagecraft.
• Gillian Anderson for All About Eve at Noel Coward Theatre
• Eileen Atkins for The Height of the Storm at Wyndham’s Theatre
• Patsy Ferran for Summer and Smoke at Almeida Theatre and Duke of York’s Theatre
• Sophie Okonedo for Antony and Cleopatra at Olivier, National Theatre
• Katherine Parkinson for Home, I’m Darling at Dorfman, National Theatre and Duke of York’s Theatre
Should win: Patsy Ferran
Will win: Sophie Okonedo
Why? This is one of the strongest categories. Patsy Ferran was magnetic as uptight Alma in Summer and Smoke and managed to be even better when the production transferred, but Sophie Okonedo will probably swing it for her ferociously good performance as Cleopatra.
• Christopher Ashley for Come from Away
• Stephen Daldry for The Inheritance
• Marianne Elliott for Company
• Rebecca Frecknall for Summer and Smoke
• Sam Mendes for The Lehman Trilogy
Should win: Marianne Elliott
Will win: Marianne Elliott
Why? By transforming Bobby into Bobbie, Marianne Elliott reframed Sondheim’s musical for a new generation in a slickly choreographed show that perfectly deployed Patti LuPone.
• King Lear
• The Lieutenant of Inishmore at Noel Coward Theatre
• The Price at Wyndham’s Theatre
• Summer and Smoke
Should win: Summer and Smoke
Will win: The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Why? Rebecca Frecknall’s illuminating take on Tennessee Williams’ lesser-known play was a gorgeous production, featuring a staggering performance, but Michael Grandage’s blood-spattered, very funny production of Martin McDonagh’s black comedy will win.
Best new play
• The Inheritance
• The Lehman Trilogy
• Sweat at Donmar Warehouse
Should win: Sweat
Will win: The Inheritance
Why? Lynn Nottage’s play about the decline of US industry is an incredibly potent piece of work, but I suspect the award will go to Matthew Lopez’s seven-hour epic for its dramatic clout.
Best actor in a supporting role
• Keir Charles for Quiz at Noel Coward Theatre
• Adam Gillen for Killer Joe at Trafalgar Studios 1
• Adrian Lukis for The Price
• Malcolm Sinclair for Pressure at Ambassadors Theatre
• Chris Walley for The Lieutenant of Inishmore
Should win: Chris Walley
Will win: Chris Walley
Why? Though he’s up against solid competition, Walley made an impressive professional stage debut as hapless Davey in Michael Grandage’s revival. None of the other performances stood out in the same way.
Best actress in a supporting role
• Susan Brown for Home, I’m Darling
• Monica Dolan for All About Eve
• Cecilia Noble for Nine Night at Dorfman, National Theatre and Trafalgar Studios
• Vanessa Redgrave for The Inheritance
Should win: Cecilia Noble
Will win: Monica Dolan
Why? Cecilia Noble was the comic highlight in Nine Night. But there’s also a case to be made for Monica Dolan’s turn in Ivo van Hove’s chilly production of All About Eve.
Best new comedy
• Home, I’m Darling
• Nine Night
Should win: Nine Night
Will win: Nine Night
This is an odd shortlist. They’re all cracking plays, but the use of humour is different in all three. That Nine Night is on this list and not best play makes me think it will swing it.
George writes widely on opera and has contributed regularly to The Stage since 2000.
Best new opera production
• Katya Kabanova at Royal Opera House
• Lessons in Love and Violence at Royal Opera House
• The Turn of the Screw at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
Should win: Lessons in Love and Violence
Will win: The Turn of the Screw
Why? Richard Jones’ Katya Kabanova was a solid achievement if not quite the director’s best work, though conductor Edward Gardner’s contribution marked a promising main-stage debut for someone tipped to succeed Antonio Pappano at the Royal Opera House. While English National Opera’s collaboration with Regent’s Park brought Britten’s The Turn of the Screw to a new venue and new audiences, I would back Lessons in Love and Violence. Some felt George Benjamin’s new opera was a disappointment after Written on Skin – not me.
Outstanding achievement in opera
• David Butt Philip and Roderick Williams for their performances in War Requiem at London Coliseum
• English National Opera chorus for Paul Bunyan at Wilton’s Music Hall
• Andris Nelsons for his conducting of Lohengrin at Royal Opera House
• The ensemble of Porgy and Bess at London Coliseum
Should win: Porgy and Bess
Will win: Porgy and Bess
Why? It is curious that only two out of three principals in War Requiem receive a nomination: soprano Emma Bell made an equally excellent contribution and should have been mentioned. Andris Nelsons confirmed his reputation with Wagner at the ROH and ENO’s chorus seized its chance to shine in Britten’s American folk-operetta Paul Bunyan. But the ensemble of ENO’s Porgy and Bess hit the heights, as did everyone involved in that extraordinary achievement.
Neil is a playwright and critic. He is a long-standing contributor of dance reviews to The Stage since 2000.
Best new dance production
• 16+ a Room/Solo Echo/Bill by Ballet British Columbia at Sadler’s Wells
• Blkdog by Botis Seva at Sadler’s Wells
• Playlist (Track 1, 2) by William Forsythe for English National Ballet at Sadler’s Wells
• The Unknown Soldier by Alastair Marriott for the Royal Ballet at Royal Opera House
Should win: William Forsythe
Will win: William Forsythe
Why? William Forsythe’s first UK-commissioned ballet for 20 years was a 10-minute blast of dazzling, joyful, life-affirming movement that delivered an adrenaline hit to the audience like few other works this year. Stretching the boundaries of classical ballet with a heady infusion of hip-hop, ballet’s greatest innovator is still cooking with gas aged 68.
Outstanding achievement in dance
• Akram Khan for his performance in Xenos at Sadler’s Wells
• John Macfarlane for his design of Swan Lake at Royal Opera House
• Dimitris Papaioannou for his choreography of The Great Tamer at Sadler’s Wells
Should win: Dimitris Papaioannou
Will win: Akram Khan
Why? In spite of Papaioannou’s extraordinary interrogation of the male body through forensic study of Greek mythology, classical sculpture and surrealist art, Akram Khan’s solo swansong will be the obvious shoo-in for the award. While it wasn’t his best choreography he delivered an astonishing, heartfelt and memorably affecting performance.