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West End Wilma Awards 2019 at the Café de Paris

Sarah O'Connor - Photo credit is Ollie Boito
Sarah O’Connor – Photo credit is Ollie Boito

Now in its sixth year, the Wilma Awards celebrate the best that West End musicals (and other plays) have to offer – both in terms of productions and performances. All the winners are voted on by the theatre-going public, and what is particularly gratifying to see is a focus not just on the biggest Theatreland hits but also, for example, Off-West End Performers (Luke Bayer for Fiver – more of him later) and touring productions (Kinky Boots – which if you know the story you’ll recognise how important it is that it’s seen beyond the cosmopolitan audiences of the capital).

The Awards Ceremony itself is a festival of joyful camp, compered by Sister Mary McArthur, a drag nun act. She marvelously combined general fun and irreverence for the proceedings with a gutsy reverence for the songs and people that make London productions so great.

I often think how unfair it is that film actors, who have to get a single scene right at a time, and who can fall back on another take if it all goes wrong, are rated so highly when compared to theatre actors who have to sustain a performance for two hours, and get it right night after night. So it was lovely to see a rising star award given to a popular choice (in the room as well as the voting) – the elegant Olivia Moore for her role in Waitress. Understudies are also celebrated (Grace Mouat who shone in SIX), another oft forgotten part of ensuring a production runs smoothly and that the show can always go on.

One of the oddities of these awards is that while almost every nomination was for a musical production, the inclusion of a couple of ‘spoken’ plays in the line-up showed that they were not intended to be exclusively given to the sung variety. That said, every single award did go to a musical performer or show, reflecting their popularity.

We were treated to two performances during the ceremony – from award-winner Luke Bayer and Alex Ellison (pipped to his own win by, you guessed it, his fellow cast-member, Luke) singing a song from Fiver.

I think it’s fair to say that the show was stolen by Sarah O’Connor’s rendition of She Used to be Mine from Waitress. With its four awards, Waitress was the big winner of the afternoon. Sarah was nominated for her understudy position for this production and is clearly one to watch. Consensus in the room was that anyone who hadn’t yet seen the show would be booking tickets as soon as they could after this performance.

And getting more bums on seats in theatres, which we are so blessed to be surrounded by in this great city, is the whole point of awards like these.

Review by Ben Ross

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The West End Wilma Awards in association with Free@Last TV Ltd and Martina Cole ceremony took place on Sunday 10th November 2019 at Café de Paris in the West End of London.

Here are all of this year’s winners…

Best Touring Production
Sponsored by The Orchard Theatre, Dartford
WINNER: Kinky Boots
Avenue Q
Hair
Grease

Best Cabaret/Solo Performance
Sponsored by Royal Vauxhall Tavern
WINNER: Lea Salonga (Nottingham Royal Concert Hall)
The Clockmaker’s Daughter In Concert (Cadogan Hall)
Sinatra: Raw (Live at Zedel)
Sharon Sexton & Rob Fowler: Vision of You (Live at Zedel)

Best Ensemble Performer
Sponsored by The MTA
WINNER: Clive Carter (Come from Away)
Maggie Lynne (Wicked)
Stephenson Ardern-Sodje (Hamilton)
Hannah-Grace Lawson (Les Miserables)

Rising Star
Sponsored by Concord Theatricals
WINNER: Olivia Moore (Waitress)
Jac Yarrow (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat)
Maiya Quansah-Breed (SIX)
Nathanael Campbell (Come From Away)
Molly Lynch (The Light In The Piazza)

Best Understudy
WINNER: Grace Mouat (SIX)
Sarah O’Connor (Waitress)
Waylon Jacobs (Hamilton)

Best Takeover In A Role
WINNER: Lucie Jones (as Jenna in Waitress)
Caroline Sheen (Violet in 9 to 5)
Mazz Murray (as Donna in Mamma Mia!
Lucy May Barker (as Sophie in Mamma Mia!)
Layton Williams (as Jamie in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie)

Best Performer In An Off-West End Show
WINNER: Luke Bayer (Fiver – Southwark Playhouse)
Tyrone Huntley (The View Upstiars – Soho Theatre)
Miles Jupp (The Life I Lead – Park Theatre)
Alex Ellison (Fiver – Southwark Playhouse)

Best Performer In A West End Show
WINNER: Marisha Wallace (Waitress)
Lia Williams (Night of the Iguana)
Sharon D Clarke (Caroline or Change)
Rachel Tucker (Come From Away)
Sheridan Smith (Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat)

Best Off-West End Show
WINNER: Little Shop Of Horrors (Regents Park Open Air Theatre)
Operation Mincemeat (New Diorama Theatre)
Aint Misbehavin (Southwark playhouse)
The View UpStairs (Soho Theatre)
Fiver (Southwark Playhouse)

Best West End Show:
WINNER: Waitress (Adelphi Theatre)
Come from Away (Phoenix Theatre)
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat (London Palladium)
Company (Gielgud Theatre)
SIX (Arts Theatre)

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