THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
Olivier Nominations 2014
Three of the four nominees for Best Actor in a Musical are American with Gavin Creel and Jared Gertner for Mormon up against Kyle Scatliffe for The Scottsboro Boys. Colman Domingo is also nominated in a supporting role for the latter.
With the BAFTAs now firmly embedded as the final pit stop before the Oscars the Olivier's are determined to be just as ritzy as Broadway's Tony's. This year's nominations announcement from a packed ballroom at the plush new Rosewood Hotel was also webcast via the Tony Awards website. The April 13 ceremony from the Royal Opera House will also be screened for an invited audience at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. More importantly for us in the UK, edited highlights will be broadcast later that evening on ITV.
The return of the Olivier's to full broadcast television last year has marked a welcome renaissance with the organisation now boasting an added confidence and attracting a host of major sponsors headed by Mastercard. It all bodes well for the reputation of these prizes, which have been running since 1976, and of the profile of London theatre.
Shakespearean performances figure strongly in the acting categories with Tom Hiddleston's Coriolanus at the Donmar up against Rory Kinnear's Iago in Othello at the National and Jude Law's Henry V. Henry Goodman's Arturo Ui fills out the category. Law's performance was part of the hugely successful Michael Grandage Season at the Noel Coward Theatre and also among the nominees are Dame Judi Dench for Peter and Alice and Sarah Greene for The Cripple of Inishmaan from that season. The latter is of course Broadway bound.
The Almeida makes a big splash this year with its highly acclaimed West End transfers of Lucy Kirkwood's Chimerica and Ibsen's Ghosts featuring strongly. Two of the best new plays Chimerica and 1984 both started at the north London powerhouse, now under Rupert Goold's artistic directorship.
The best New Comedy category makes a return with The Duck House, The Full Monty, Jeeves & Wooster in Perfect Nonsense and The Same Deep Water As Me all vying for an award.
No less than 3 of the 4 nominees for Best Director are female with Maria Friedman (Merrily We Roll Along), Susan Stroman (The Scottsboro Boys) and Lyndsey Turner (Chimerica) up against Sir Richard Eyre for Ghosts.
A frequent sin of the Olivier awards is their cavalier attitude to their own categories, which change from year to year, as well as the numbers within each one. The point of awards is history, to be added to the roll of honour and if the category keeps changing it diminishes this.
Why for example do supporting roles in musicals deserve only one category whereas plays get two? The West End is overflowing with musical productions. In terms of labels why do we have 'Best Actor in a Musical' and 'Best Actress in a 'Musical and then 'Best Actor' and 'Best Actress' for plays? Is this a hangover from the former not being considered legitimate?
The Dance and Opera awards continue to be the poor relation and why only three nominations for New Dance Production? The Outstanding Achievement in dance or in opera categories continue to throw up ridiculous anomalies, with in opera for example, three of the biggest names in the business (Joyce Di Donato, Juan Diego Florez and Placido Domingo) up against English Touring Opera and the latter is not cited for any single production but rather their 'brave and challenging touring productions'. Well, cite one! Although not intended to be so, this surely comes across as a sop.
Part of the problem lies in bricks and mortar, with the nominations having to come from a 'house' which is a member of the Society of London Theatre. This rules out the South Bank Centre and its vibrant dance programme and it is something the organisation must sort out.
The oddest nomination however is 'Autograph Sound Award for Outstanding Achievement in Music'. In Tony's this would be called Best Score of a Musical but here the composers of The Book of Mormon, Once and The Scottsboro Boys are up against 'the orchestra' for Merrily We Roll Along. I'm sure Mr Sondheim is beyond caring but this is an odd slight. What they're trying to do here of course, which is notable, is to honor arrangers, so why don't they just do that in a separate category and not make this a dog's dinner?
These are minor quibbles in a strong field this year. The full nominations are at www.olivierawards.com/awards and make sure to watch the show on ITV on Sunday April 13.