The Oliver Awards honor outstanding acheivements in the arts in London and Dame Judi Dench was the belle of the ball at Sunday’s celebration of the 40th annual edition of these kudos. She claimed her seventh competitive award winning Best Supporting Actress for her performance as Paulina in “The Winter’s Tale” opposite Kenneth Branagh in his production of the Shakespearean play. She previously prevailed in 1977 for “Macbeth,” 1980 for “Juno and the Paycock,” 1983 for “Pack of Lies,” 1987 for “Antony and Cleopatra,” 1995 for “A Little Night Music” and 1996 for “Absolute Hell.” And she was feted with a special lifetime achievement award in 2004. (See full list of winners and nominees HERE.)
Two transfers of Tony-winning musicals claimed three apiece: Three years after sweeping the Tonys, “Kinky Boots” won Best Musical, Best Actor (Matt Henry) and Best Costume Design. And “Hamilton” multi-hyphenate Lin-Manuel Miranda’s 2008 Tony-winning Best Musical “In the Heights” claimed Best Supporting Actor (David Bedella), Best Choreography and Best Achievement in Music.
The Chichester Festival Theatre’s production of “Gypsy” won a leading four awards: Best Musical Revival, Best Actress (Imelda Staunton), Best Supporting Actress (Lara Pulver) and Best Lighting Design.
Martin McDonagh’s “Hangmen” won Best Play, “Nell Gwynn” was named Best Comedy and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” claimed Best Play Revival.
Also on the play side, Kenneth Cranham won Best Actor for the title role in “The Father,” a man suffering from Alzheimer’s. Florian Zeller’s play was translated from the French by Christopher Hampton. Denise Gough was named Best Actress for her turn as a performer who checks herself into rehab in “People, Places and Things,” which also won Best Sound Design. And Mark Gatiss picked up the Best Supporting Actor prize for his work in Patrick Marber’s adaptation of Ivan Turganev’s “Three Days in the Country.”
The 160 suits who belong to the Society of London Theatres joined a small panel of theater pros and the public in determining the winners. Not surprisingly, commercial ventures dominated these prizes which had previously been won primarily by fare from the subsidized sector.
These top British theater kudos are named for Laurence Olivier, the celebrated English actor who enjoyed success in Hollywood as well, winning the Best Actor Oscar for “Hamlet” (1948) and contending another nine times.
The awards were doled out at the Royal Opera House on April 4 in a lively presentation presided over by musical theater vet Michael Ball. Unlike the Tony Awards, which are showcased live on CBS, the Olivier Awards get only a clips package on ITV later that evening and a live feed on BBC Radio 2.