Details of what is arguably the biggest theatre awards ceremony in the UK were announced: the Laurence Olivier Awards. They were established way back in 1976 and, after thirty six years, an Olivier Award is considered the most prestigious honour a British stage actor can receive.
In 2011, the Oliviers were relaunched in a new partnership with Mastercard, which also saw the BBC cover the event on BBC Radio 2 and via the Red Button service. It was once again held at Theatre Royal Drury Lane – but not this year. The 2012 Olivier Awards are moving to the lavish surroundings of the Royal Opera House for the ceremony on 15th April, where the cream of the theatre world will gather to find out who the big winners of the past year are. Sweeney Todd stars Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton are to host the evening’s proceedings, while the audience nominees, presenters, stars of the British stage and invited guests look on from the auditorium.
In what I think is a brilliant move, the Oliviers are branching out even further this year. There will be a free public event in Covent Garden, hosted by Wicked star Louise Dearman and Magic 105.4’s Neil Fox, in which there will be a big-screen relay of the awards alongside live performances from some of the West End’s biggest shows. What is even more exciting however is that the Oliviers will also be going to New York. A select audience of New York’s cultural stars and the Brits who are currently entertaining fans across the sea will be joining in with all the fun of the night at a special event in New York City.
The Awards are presented by the Society Of London Theatre (SOLT) and its Chief Executive, Julian Bird, commented on his excitement about this extended celebration, in which he believes was a very good year for London Theatre, saying that he was, “delighted we have been able to extend our celebrations to New York, and this connection is particularly apt in a year in which we are working closer than ever with VisitBritain and London & Partners to deliver a warm welcome to theatre audiences during the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.”
The BBC will once again be championing the BBC Radio 2 Audience Award, which last year the public awarded to Queen musical We Will Rock You. Voting opens on 5th February, when it’s launched on Elaine Paige’s radio show. They will also be following the night’s events again through radio their radio coverage and Red Button. While it’s great that that those at home will still be able to follow the Awards, I’m sure I’m not alone in hoping they improve upon last year’s coverage. Although the Red Button service attracted 177,000 viewers, they failed to impress those viewers with the poor quality of the coverage, which saw vital moments of the on-stage ceremony being missed. The BBC issued an apology, which we can hope means that they’ve recognised where they went wrong and will – fingers crossed – have improved on it for this year’s event. The Tony Awards in America are broadcast live on television and watched by an average of 7 million people – we may have a way to go to catch up with that standard, but perhaps one day we’ll see the Olivier’s receive that kind of attention here in the UK.
The nominations for the 2012 Olivier Awards will be announced on 15th March at London’s Mayfair Hotel which, in another first, will be streamed live to the world through the Olivier Awards official website.
It’s the award event that every theatre fan looks forward to with eager anticipation. Last year, Legally Blonde and its then-leading lady Sheridan Smith were one of the night’s biggest success stories – the musical won three awards and Smith walked away with the ‘Best Actress in a Musical’ award, leading her to become known as the Queen of the West End. Who will be the big winners in 2012 though?
By Julie Robinson (@missjulie25)
24th January 2012