Hot to trot American musical sweeps the board at UK’s illustrious Olivier Awards

The biggest names in British theatre turned out in force for The Olivier Awards 2018 with Mastercard last night. The UK’s most prestigious stage honours were hosted at London’s Royal Albert Hall by Catherine Tate on 8 April, televised in the UK on ITV and streamed worldwide on Facebook. The Oliviers will broadcast in China online via the video platform iQiyi on 10 April.

Presenters on the night included Alexandra Burke, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Anne-Marie Duff, Beverley Knight, Chita Rivera, Cuba Gooding Jnr, Frank DiLella, Juliet Stevenson, Meera Syal, Mel Giedroyc, Michael Sheen, Ophelia Lovibond, Patti LuPone, Pearl Mackie and Sergei Polunin.

Established in 1976, the Olivier Awards celebrate the world-class status of London theatre. It is managed by non-profit organisation SOLT (Society of London Theatre), along with partners Mastercard, Official London Theatre, West End LIVE, TKTS, Theatre Tokens, Kids Week and London Theatre’s New Year Sale.

The cast of Hamilton at The Oliver Awards 2018 © Darren Bell
The cast of Hamilton enjoying the British weather at The Oliver Awards 2018 © Darren Bell

The standout success story of the night was Cameron Mackintosh’s Hamilton, which collected seven Olivier Awards, out of 13 nominations, for its run in the West End, including Best New Musical for composer-lyricist Lin-Manuel Miranda and Outstanding Achievement in Music for orchestrator Alex Lacamoire. Giles Terera, who plays the part of Aaron Burr, was named Best Actor in a Musical, while Michael Jibson took Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical for his portrayal of King George III.

The musical, about the life of American Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, was inspired by historian Ron Chernow’s 2004 biography Alexander Hamilton. It also took Best Lighting Design, Best Sound Design, and Best Theatre Choreographer.

A landmark production, Hamilton premiered off-Broadway in 2015 at The Public Theater, New York City, going on to enjoy rapturous success, reportedly racking up USD30m(€24.4m) in advance ticket sales before it even opened on Broadway. Once on Broadway, it notched up a shelf full of Tony and Grammy nominations and wins. Hamilton transferred to the West End last year and has since been praised for breaking boundaries in British theatre and in the genre, using a mix of hip hop, rap, blues and song to tell the story of America’s founding fathers.

Newcomer Jamael Westman, who was just 25 and a year out of drama school when he was picked up to play Alexander Hamilton, said of the production’s success: “This is reimagining what it can be, using the hip hop form and more contemporary types of song and the use of language that is almost Shakespearean. It’s changing the way that we see theatre and is breaking boundaries. That’s why it’s been recognised.”

In close second, The National Theatre took five gongs including Best Revival for Angels in America and Best Musical Revival for Follies. Bryan Cranston won Best Actor for his role in Network and Denise Gough won Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance in Angels in America.

Sam Mendes and Patti LuPone © Pamela Raith
The Ferryman director Sam Mendes and Olivier host Patti LuPone © Pamela Raith

Jez Butterworth’s play The Ferryman, a Northern Irish drama set during The Troubles that premiered at the Royal Court in April 2017, collected three Olivier Awards including Best New Play, while Best Director went to Sam Mendes, with Laura Donnelly picking up Best Actress for her role as Caitlin, who finds herself widowed after her husband has been disappeared by the IRA.

Shirley Henderson and Sheila Atim won Best Actress in a Musical and Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical respectively for The Old Vic’s Girl From The North Country, Conor McPherson’s musical based on the work of Bob Dylan.

Bertie Carvel was named Best Actor in a Supporting Role for James Graham’s Ink, which premiered at the Duke of York’s theatre. Directed by Rupert Goold, Ink is a portrait of the Australian media giant Rupert Murdoch and chronicles his takeover of dying British tabloid The Sun. The young Murdoch’s presence went on to influence British public and politics, changing the UK’s newspaper landscape forever.

The Royal Court’s production of Killology won Outstanding Achievement in Affiliate Theatre and Dick Whittington won Best Entertainment and Family.

In the dance categories, Best New Dance Production went to Flight Pattern by Crystal Pite for The Royal Ballet at Royal Opera House. Francesca Velicu won Outstanding Achievement in Dance for English National Ballet’s production of Pina Bausch’s Le Sacre Du Printemps at Sadler’s Wells.

The Royal Opera House won Best New Opera for Semiramide, with Joyce DiDonato and Daniela Barcellona picking up gongs for Outstanding Achievement in Opera for their performances.

David Lan was this year’s recipient of the Special Award in recognition of his outstanding contribution in leading the Young Vic since 2000, his work within the local community around the theatre, and his commitment to internationalism and diversity. The full list of winners is available online.