An­gela Lans­bury steals the show at Olivier Awards

The China Post - - LIFE - BY JILL LAW­LESS

An Amer­i­can clas­sic di­rected by a Bel­gian and a mu­si­cal about a very English rock band were the big win­ners at the United King­dom’s Olivier theater awards Sun­day — but it was an 89-year old the­atri­cal Dame who brought the house down.

Arthur Miller drama “A View From the Bridge” and Kinks mu­si­cal “Sunny Af­ter­noon,” won the most prizes, and there were roars of ap­proval when An­gela Lans­bury was named best sup­port­ing actress for play­ing scat­ter­brained psy­chic Madame Ar­cati in Noel Cow­ard’s com­edy “Blithe Spirit.”

“I am so in­fin­itely grate­ful to have this baby in my hands. You have no idea,” said Lon­don-born Lans­bury, who al­ready has an hon­orary Os­car, five Tonys and a dame­hood, the fe­male equiv­a­lent of a knight­hood.

“Here I am creep­ing up to 90 and feel­ing like a mil­lion dol­lars,” said the “Mur­der, She Wrote” star, who first ap­peared on­stage in the 1940s.

She said theater is “life — and thank God I’m still in it.”

“Sunny Af­ter­noon,” the story of 1960s rock­ers The Kinks, took four prizes in­clud­ing best new mu­si­cal and act­ing tro­phies for John Da­gleish and Ge­orge Maguire, who play bat­tling broth­ers Ray and Dave Davies. The real-life Ray Davies won the out­stand­ing achieve­ment in mu­sic prize for the play’s score.

He said the un­ruly North Lon­don lads in The Kinks were “four of the un­like­li­est pop stars you’ve ever seen.”

“Peo­ple are the source of my ma­te­rial,” said Davies, whose songs in­clude “Sunny Af­ter­noon,” “Water­loo Sun­set” and “Lola.”

“So the next time you’re in a park and you see some­one like me look­ing at you — don’t phone the po­lice.”

A bold, pared-down re­vival of “A View From the Bridge” won three prizes in­clud­ing best re­vival and best direc­tor, for Ivo van Hove.

Mark Strong was named best ac­tor in a play for his slow-burning per­for­mance in Miller’s tragedy of blood and honor in Brook­lyn.

Strong said the re­sponse to the play from au­di­ence-mem­bers had been in­cred­i­ble.

“They don’t just want au­to­graphs any­more,” he said. “They want to talk about what they’re see­ing and they want to kind of com­pare their own ex­pe­ri­ences to what they’re see­ing on­stage.”

Mike Bartlett’s “King Charles III,” which imag­ines Prince Charles tak­ing the throne with dis­as­trous re­sults, was named best new play.

“Thank you to the royal fam­ily for not closing us down for trea­son,” Bartlett said.

An­other king, Henry VIII, was also crowned with an Olivier. Nathaniel Parker was named best sup­port­ing ac­tor for play­ing the monarch in Hi­lary Man­tel’s “Wolf Hall” saga, which has just trans­ferred to Broad­way.

“Down­ton Abbey” star Pene­lope Wil­ton was named best actress in a play for Nazi-era drama “Taken at Mid­night.”

Ris­ing star Katie Bray­ben won the prize for best actress in a mu­si­cal for play­ing song­writer Ca­role King in “Beau­ti­ful.” Her co-star Lorna Want was named best sup­port­ing actress.

Founded in 1976, the awards honor achieve­ments in Lon­don plays, mu­si­cals, dance and opera. Win­ners in most cat­e­gories are cho­sen by a panel of stage pro­fes­sion­als and the­ater­go­ers.

The Oliviers have be­come an in­creas­ingly glitzy af­fair in re­cent years, with a cer­e­mony stud­ded with mu­si­cal num­bers, mod­eled on Broad­way’s Tonys. Celebri­ties on hand in­cluded Judi Dench, Kevin Spacey, James McAvoy and pop star Ni­cole Scherzinger, who was nom­i­nated for her sup­port­ing role in “Cats.”

Be­neath the glitz, many pre­sen­ters and win­ners paid trib­ute to the grit and grease­paint of live theater.

Sev­eral of the win­ning shows started in small, state-sub­si­dized the­aters which of­ten take greater cre­ative risks than com­mer­cial playhouses.

It was a good night for the Young Vic, a small venue which has re- cently at­tracted big stars in­clud­ing Gil­lian An­der­son, a best-actress nom­i­nee for “A Street­car Named De­sire.”

The venue has been hailed as the best theater in Lon­don, but artis­tic direc­tor David Lan joked that it was merely “the best theater in Water­loo.”

Its ri­val in that south Lon­don neigh­bor­hood, the Old Vic, also re­ceived recog­ni­tion. Os­car-win­ning ac­tor Spacey, who steps down later this year af­ter a decade run­ning the 200-year-old theater, re­ceived a spe­cial award for his con­tri­bu­tion to the Bri­tish stage.

“I love that theater more than I can begin to ex­plain to you,” Spacey said, be­fore re­mov­ing his jacket and tie, pulling out a har­mon­ica and per­form­ing Simon and Gar­funkel’s “Bridge Over Trou­bled Wa­ter” with soul singer Bev­er­ley Knight — an un­usual end to Bri­tish theater’s big night.


(Above) From left, Joe Pen­hall, Ray Davies, John Dalgleish and Ge­orge Maguire pose for pho­tog­ra­phers at the Olivier Awards at the Royal Opera House in Lon­don on Sun­day, April 12. (Right) Katie Bray­ben cel­e­brates af­ter win­ning the prize for best actress in a mu­si­cal for play­ing song­writer Ca­role King in “Beau­ti­ful” at the Olivier Awards at the Royal Opera House in Lon­don on Sun­day.

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