Women and musicals triumph at 2020 Olivier Awards

The awards ceremony staged at the London Palladium on Sunday October 25th was a very different affair to its predecessors. Stripped of an audience, the interplay reminded us of what we – and every theatre up and down the country – were missing; the excitement of being there in the room, together.

Awards-wise musicals DEAR EVAN HANSEN and & JULIET scored three awards each, with HANSEN picking up Best Actor for Sam Tutty, Best Musical and Best Original Score, while & JULIET scooped for Miriam Teak-Lee as Best Actress, Cassidy Janson as Best Supporting Actress and David Bedella as Best Supporting Actor. MARY POPPINS took two awards (for Stephen Mear and Sir Matthew Bourne as Best Choreographers, and for Bob Crowley winning Best Set Design).

PRESENT LAUGHTER won Best Actor for Andrew Scott and Best Supporting Actress for Indira Varma, and DEATH OF A SALESMAN interestingly won Best Actress for Sharon D Clarke (who is the first person to be nominated in all four performing categories and won in three of them) and Best Director for Marianne Elliott and Miranda Cromwell.

In a further significant tribute to female creative talent, EMILIA’s all female team scored three wins Best Entertainment for writer Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, with Joanna Scotcher winning Best Costume Design and Emma Laxton winning for Best Sound Design. Paule Constable won her fifth Olivier for the lighting design for National Theatre‚Äôs production of THE OCEAN AT THE END OF THE LANE, and Emma Reeves and Theresa Heskins collected the new award for Best Family Show for The Worst Witch. Outstanding Achievement in Dance was won (from an all-female shortlist) by Sara Baras for her choreography and performance in BALLET FLAMENCO – SOMBRAS at Sadlers Wells.

Personally I was disappointed to see that the wonderful AMELIE did not win any of its three nominated categories (Best Actress for Audrey Brisson, Best Original Score and Best Musical).

It was heartwarming, though, to see Sir Ian McKellen receive his seventh Olivier Award, this time for his 80th birthday tour of UK theatres which also raised substantial funds for the theatres themselves. Can you imagine how much MORE desperate theatres’ plights would have been without this cash injection just before the pandemic!!! We all have a lot for which to be grateful to Sir Ian. From him came the most memorable line of the evening, “A country which cares about its live theatre is a healthy country”.

Yet again the IN MEMORIAM section was badly flawed, notable omissions from this most important roll call (four seconds each on screen, not much for a complete life, eh? Reduced from six seconds a couple of years ago. (In another decade they’ll just send out an email…..)) this year are Bob West and David Grant, two of this country’s most successful and important Company Managers who have kept many a show sailing smoothly over the decades, and allowed producers to sleep easily in their beds at night.

Anyone with insomnia wishing to see the ceremony can do so when it is (seemingly grudgingly) broadcast on ITV on Tuesday 27th October at 11.15pm. Alternatively, you can watch the programme (according to availability in countries outside the UK) on ITVHub on the link below.

So, another awards ceremony over. It seems unlikely we shall see the Olivier Awards again until 2022, which may mean that the competition is even fiercer than usual. Only time will tell. For now, let’s send our congratulations to the winners and all the nominees!




2 Replies to “Women and musicals triumph at 2020 Olivier Awards”

  1. Glad to see that it’s not just the Oscars that screw up the In Memoriam segment. What these shows need are genuine fans, rather than board members, to put them together.

    By the way, was that the MasterCard logo in the corner of the Olivier Awards plaque atop the page?

    1. Hi Kevin and thanks for your comments!
      It’s always the tension between whether these shows are for the general public (who have most often never heard of these important names within the industry) or for the theatre community itself. Its a combination at best – the live event is for the industry and the broadcast is for the general public; nevertheless the tension remains.
      I think the reason we all get so upset about these things is that those in the public consciousness are such a small part of the overall business, whether, film, TV, music or any other of the arts, and a moment’s recognition of a person’s contribution is hugely significant for so many in the industry. Sure,the In Memoriam section wouldn’t be as likely to make the TV cut (which is forever cutting out sections to the point where you wonder why they bother), but as TV seems so disinterested in the Awards anyway, why let them crack the whip?
      I was hugely grateful back in 2014 when thanks to the quick and thoughtful associate producers of the Awards, my late colleague Anthony Field was featured in the IN MEMORIAM section. He had died very near to the awards date and they took the time and care to include him, which his many friends and colleagues will always be grateful for.
      So many people who are working hard in the industry themselves don’t know about the incredible work and achievements of those who do not seek the spotlight but provide space and time for others to shine. It is only fitting, surely, that these true “show people” have just a few seconds of recognition. I recall chatting to one of the young associate producers who had never heard of Anthony Field.After I described what he had done, for how long and who for, and his many achievements, he said: “Wow. It sounds like I owe him my career”. And quite possibly he was right. That’s a real tribute.

      And, Yes, MasterCard is the principal sponsor of the Olivier Awards , and has been for several years now.

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