Comedian turned stage star Jason Manford is to host the Olivier Awards at London’s Royal Albert Hall on April 9. A popular stand-up comedian, Manford turned his talents to acting recently and has headlined sell-out tours of the tuners “The Producers” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.” As he wryly observed, “Hosting the Oliviers is the closest I’m going to get to getting one! Unlike the Tony Awards, which are showcased live on CBS, these top London theater honors get only a clips package on ITV later that evening and a live feed on BBC Radio 2.
“Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” earned a record number of Olivier Awards nominations for a play by reaping 11 bids. That equalled the benchmark set by the musical “Hairspray” back in 2008. Among the nominations for this two-part production are Best Play as well as mentions in three acting categories and across all four design awards as well as choreography and music. And “Harry Potter” helmer John Tiffany is competing against himself for his direction of the revival of the Tennessee Williams‘ play “The Glass Menagerie,” which was on Broadway in 2013.
Among tuners, “Groundhog Day, which opens later this month on Broadway, has a leading eight nominations including Best Musical. Also contending in that category is “Dreamgirls,” as this 1982 Tony nominee had never had a West End production till now. “School of Rock” and “The Girls” round out that race.
Among the more competitive races, Best Actor (play) pits six-time champ Sir Ian McKellen (“No Man’s Land”) against three Olivier rookies: Ed Harris (“Buried Child”), Tom Hollander (“Travesties) and “Harry Potter” star Jamie Parker.
The Best Actress (Play) race welcomes back Glenda Jackson for the first time since 1984 with a nomination for “King Lear.” She vies against two-time Tony champ Cherry Jones (“The Glass Menagerie), Billie Piper (“Yerma) and Ruth Wilson (“Hedda Gabler”).
On the musical side, Glenn Close contends for Best Actress for the remounting of “Sunset Boulevard.” While she won a Tony for this show back in 1995 (thereby making her ineligible for the current rialto revival) she never played the part of Norma Desmond on this side of the pond till now. She contends against: Amber Riley who took on the “Dreamgirls” role that won Jennifer Holliday a Tony and Jennifer Hudson the Oscar; Sheridan Smith in “Funny Girl,” the show that launched Barbra Streisand; and the cast of “The Girls.”
And West End newcomer Charlie Stemp (“Half a Sixpence”) contends for Best Actor against the stars of two Andrew Lloyd Webber shows — David Fynn (“School Of Rock”) and Tyrone Huntley (“Jesus Christ Superstar”) — as well as “Groundhog Day” star Andy Karl.