Theatre website What’s On Stage have revealed the winners of its 12th annual Whatsonstage.com Awards, the only prize-giving event for the theatre industry voted for purely by the ticket-buying public.
Over 70,000 people took part in the voting process – a major new record representing a 55% increase on last year’s turnout.
The awards – hosted by comedians Alan Davies, Jenny Eclair and nominee Sheridan Smith – were announced at a star-studded concert ceremony held this evening at the West End’s Prince of Wales Theatre, in association with Time Out London and in aid of Stage One, a charity dedicated to developing up-and-coming producers in order to sustain quality theatre in the UK.
The Royal Shakespeare Company’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s much-loved children’s book, Matilda the Musical, capitalised on its success at the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Awards to become the night’s big winner with four awards, including Best New Musical, Best Choreographer for Peter Darling and Best Set Designer for Rob Howell (also recognised for his work on Ghost the Musical). With 35% of the votes in his category, Australian comedian Tim Minchin, making his musical debut providing the show’s music and lyrics, was a commanding winner for London Newcomer of the Year.
One Man, Two Guvnors leads the play pack with three prizes. Richard Bean’s 1960s Brighton-set version of Goldoni’s The Servant of Two Masters – now in its final week at the West End’s Adelphi Theatre with the original cast before they head for Broadway – won Best New Comedy hands down (with 55% of the vote). Its two male stars also triumphed: James Corden, who co-hosted the Whatsonstage.com Awards in 2008 and 2009, returned this year to collect the gong for Best Actor in a Play while Oliver Chris took home Best Supporting Actor. The Best Actor field was one of this year’s most hotly contested categories, with Corden eventually triumphing over other 2012 favourites Benedict Cumberbatch and David Tennant, as well as previous Whatsonstage.com Award winners Jude Law and Kevin Spacey.
Vanessa Redgrave, meanwhile, beat off stiff competition from Eve Best, Kristin Scott Thomas, Ruth Wilson, Samantha Spiro and Tamsin Greig to win Best Actress in a Play for Driving Miss Daisy. The Broadway transfer co-starring James Earl Jones, for which Redgrave was Tony Award nominated last year, also won Best Play Revival in the Whatsonstage.com Awards.
The four closely-fought musical performance categories were divvied up between the year’s three big screen-to-stage hits: Shrek the Musical earned Amanda Holden and Nigel Harman Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor in a Musical respectively; Richard Fleeshman, now preparing to reprise his role as Sam (made famous on screen by Patrick Swayze) in the Broadway premiere of Ghost the Musical, won Best Actor in a Musical; and Hannah Waddingham, a previous three-time
Whatsonstage.com nominee, scooped Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for her Wicked Witch of the West from The Wizard of Oz, which – with its new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice – also collected Best Musical Revival.
One of the year’s most controversial and critically acclaimed musicals, London Road, the documentary-style piece based on interviews with residents of the Ipswich street where five prostitutes were murdered in 2006, gained another performance prize – Best Ensemble Performance – for its entire 11-strong cast, who play 52 roles between them.
Award winners include,
- Matilda wins four awards, including Best New Musical and Newcomer of the Year for composer/lyricist Tim Minchin.
- One Man, Two Guvnors wins three awards, including Best Actor in a Play for previous Awards host James Corden and Best New Comedy
- David Tennant and Catherine Tate’s reunion in Much Ado About Nothing named Theatre Event of the Year and Best Shakespearean Production, while Tate takes home another prize, Best Supporting Actress in a Play, for Season’s Greetings. The pair’s West End offering of Much Ado About Nothing, directed by Josie Rourke (just taken over as Donmar Warehouse artistic director), won both Best Shakespearean Production (beating out the Globe’s staging of the same play by just 4%) as well as Theatre Event of the Year
- Vanessa Redgrave scoops Best Actress for her performance opposite James Earl Jones in Best Play Revival winner Driving Miss Daisy
- Ghost picks up three gongs including Best Actor in a Musical for Richard Fleeshman, while fellow screen-to-stage musical Shrek nets awards for Amanda Holden and Nigel Harman
- Kerry Ellis (right) won Best Solo Performance for Anthems, the concert show at the Royal Albert Hall that was conceived and arranged by Brian May. The Queen guitar legend performed Wicked’s “Defying Gravity”, a song featured in Anthems, with Ellis for the Awards Concert finale
- In Whatsonstage.com’s category for longer-running productions, Best West End Show, Wicked was displaced for the first time from the top spot by the National’s War Horse, which continues to ride high in the West End following the success of Steven Spielberg’s film version and last year’s five-time Tony Award-winning Broadway transfer
- The National Theatre’s seventh win of the night went to Danny Boyle (now deeply ensconced in Olympics opening ceremony planning), who was named Best Director for Frankenstein, which saw Benedict Cumberbatch and Johnny Lee Miller alternating in the roles of Dr Frankenstein and the Creature
- Opera tenor Alfie Boe won Best Takeover in a Role for Les Miserables, beating off competition including his co-star, Little Britain’s Matt Lucas
- The Riots, the Tricycle’s verbatim drama about last summer’s rioting in London and around the country, won Best Off-West End Production. The play was directed by Nicolas Kent, who steps down as Tricycle artistic director next month after 28 years in charge
- Chichester Festival Theatre’s revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd, starring Michael Ball in the title role, was awarded Best Regional Production. It opens at the West End’s Adelphi Theatre on the 20th March.
Terri Paddock, managing and editorial director of Whatsonstage.com, said: “This is our most successful year yet. We’ve seen a 55% increase in voter turnout this year – with over 70,000 voters wildly supporting their favourite performers and productions. To satisfy audience demand to be part of our Awards, we introduced a live webcast of the acceptance speeches from the Prince of Wales for the first time tonight.
“These awards are vital to the theatre industry because, as the only major ones decided across the board by the public, they unashamedly measure popularity as well as quality. And they’re just plain fun! With our sponsor and new owner, Time Out, we look forward to continuing to grow the Whatsonstage.com Awards in the years to come. In the meantime, we congratulate all of our 2012 winners.”
The 2012 Whatsonstage.com Awards were co-hosted by Sheridan Smith, Alan Davies and Jenny Eclair, with Michael Ball presenting on behalf of Stage One. In addition to Kerry Ellis and Brian May, there were performances by nominees and other West End stars including Sharon D Clarke, Hannah Waddingham, Sean Palmer, Clare Foster, Ben Goddard, Bill Ward and Sophie Evans.