As anyone who has lived in or visited London will know, theatre is an institution in the capital and, indeed, the country and an essential part of what constitutes our cultural landscape.

Who doesn’t feel a little tingle of excitement each time they’re sitting in their seats and the lights dim for the start of a brand new production? The mere mention of the name ‘Shaftesbury Avenue’ conjures images of names in lights, glittering and spectacular new productions and a night of indulgence. Therefore it’s a shame that our biggest theatre awards receive nowhere near as much attention as the motion picture equivalents.

On 28 April the Royal Opera House will host the Olivier Awards, most certainly Britain’s biggest night in theatre. Despite BBC’s comprehensive coverage of the ceremony over the past two years, the only appearance which the Oliviers will make on the small screen will be a ‘highlights’ programme on ITV. Having said this, I’m sure a full run-down of the red carpet looks will be all over the internet, but I still find myself amazed as to why they aren’t covered more.

…it really is an impossible choice…

The public are, however, encouraged to become involved in the awards, with the Radio 2 Audience Award presenting itself as the least predictable category at the event. The seventeen options we have to choose from are distinctly different but hugely enjoyable and it really is an impossible choice, even more so than the Best Picture Oscar.

Believe it or not, I speak with little authority on the nominees; I have only seen four of the productions nominated, one of which wasn’t even in this country, however I’m going to pretend I know what I’m talking about and attempt to predict the winner. The more established musicals – Lion King, Mamma Mia!, Billy Elliot, Jersey Boys, Phantom of the Opera, We Will Rock You and Wicked – have loyal followings and a wide fan base, therefore are all easy predictions to win. For other musical fans, there’s Matilda, the hugely successful production which swept last year’s awards, Singin’ in the Rain, everyone’s favourite umbrella-starring production, and Rock of Ages, for all the Journey fans out there.

…most likely to steal the win from under the musicals’ noses…

Since only five of the seventeen nominations are plays, it is pertinent to look at their chances at sweeping the trophy. War Horse is by far the most popular of the five options, having received plenty of exposure from the mediocre film adaptation and the sheer quality and inventiveness of the production itself. The 39 Steps, another firm favourite, goes up against the hugely entertaining One Man, Two Guvnors, Christie’s classic The Mousetrap and the suspenseful tour de force that is The Woman in Black. Out of these four, surely War Horse is most likely to steal the win from under the musicals’ noses and it might just do so.

As if all of that wasn’t enough, the remainder of the nominations are not to be ignored, despite the unlikeliness that either of them will emerge victorious. I haven’t seen either of these productions, but I doubt Stomp or Thriller Live have the fan base or impact required to win the audience’s heart over the fifteen other contenders.

…the spectacular film adaptation causing a national shortage of Kleenex…

So who is going to win? I couldn’t call it if I tried. There is little doubt it will be a musical – statistically speaking if for no other reason – which is a shame given the huge variety of dramatic productions that have won audience’s hearts this past year. One notable absence on this year’s list is Les Misérables, which won the award last year and, I would expect, had it in the bag this year, especially with the spectacular film adaptation causing a national shortage of Kleenex.

I only hope the award doesn’t go to last year’s favourite, Matilda; when I went a few weeks ago I was greatly disappointed by everything apart from the portrayal of Agatha Trunchbull, who was delightful and absolutely spot-on. Everything else about the production made my teeth grate as it positively massacred the fond memories I held of both Dahl’s classic and the outstanding 1996 film adaptation.

…throw a curveball and surprise us all…

Perhaps one of the aforementioned stalwarts of the Covent Garden musical scene will win; perhaps Stomp will throw a curveball and surprise us all. Whichever excellent production wins, the fact that the audience’s favourite is too close to call just highlights the diverse quality of the productions we have on our doorstep. It’s difficult to make time for such luxuries as theatre – be it dramatic or musical – in our hectic lives, but events such as the Oliviers argue that make time we must. Imagine a shaggy-haired rocker on the Rock of Ages stage belting out ‘Don’t You Forget About Me.’ That’s Shaftesbury Avenue. The London stage is calling.  



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