April 08, 2018
Jez Butterworth’s The Ferryman, the National Theatre and Bryan Cranston also come up trumps
Revolutionary musical Hamilton takes home seven Olivier awards
Hamilton, the stage juggernaut that is arguably the most popular and influential musical for a generation, has won big at the UK’s most prestigious theatre awards, taking seven Oliviers.
While the show did not quite set records – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child did that last year, with nine – Hamilton was the dominant force at a ceremony on Sunday night. which also proved rewarding for Jez Butterworth’s play The Ferryman, the National Theatre and Bryan Cranston, who was named best actor in a play.
Hamilton won awards including best new musical, choreography, lighting and sound, while its creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and orchestrator, Alex Lacamoire, were given an outstanding achievement in music prize.
One of the most intriguing categories was best actor in a musical, which pitted Jamael Westman, the young actor not long out of drama school who plays Alexander Hamilton, against Giles Terera, who plays Hamilton’s nemesis Aaron Burr. Terera won.
Terera said it had been the joy of his life and career to be part of such a diverse company. “It’s not a box-ticking exercise, it is the best way to tell the story … Diversity is not a policy, it is life, diversity is life. So theatre makers, there’s no excuse.”
Hamilton, which tells the story of one of the least well-known founding fathers of the US, took Broadway by storm when it opened in 2015. The question was: would such an American story be quite as successful in the UK? It has proved to be just as popular. If someone tried to book tickets for the show today, the next available seats would be for a Thursday matinee in November.
Critics, too, have praised the show. The Guardian’s Michael Billington was one of many to give it five stars, praising Miranda for creating “an invigorating and original musical that, at a time of national crisis, celebrates America’s overwhelming debt to the immigrant”.
One dissenting voice was the Daily Mail’s critic Quentin Letts, who judged the musical score “so-so, with harmonies seldom rising above the level of ad-land jingles” and complained that the “mad publicity hoopla” was not justified. But Letts’s is a minority view. Most have hailed the show, which uses hip-hop, rap and R&B music and a diverse cast, as a game-changer.
Hamilton dominated the musical categories at the Royal Albert Hall ceremony, though not every one. Two stars of the Bob Dylan musical Girl From the North Country, Shirley Henderson and Sheila Atim, won, respectively, best actress and best supporting actress in a musical.
The Troubles-set The Ferryman, which began at the Royal Court before its West End and now Broadway transfer, won three Oliviers, including best new play, beating Ink, Oslo and Network.
Sam Mendes won best director and Laura Donnelly won best actress, from a shortlist that also featured Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville and Audra McDonald.
Mendes dedicated his award to the theatre director Howard Davies, who died in 2016. “We stand on the shoulders of masters,” he said. “I lost count of the number of times while I was directing this, I thought, ‘How would Howard do it?’”
It was also a pleasing night for the National Theatre and its artistic director, Rufus Norris, who received something of a critical drubbing over his production of Macbeth. The company had garnered 22 nominations and won five, including best revival for Angels in America, best supporting actress for Denise Gough, best musical revival for Follies and for Cranston as best actor.
Cranston, best known for Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad, won for his startling portrayal of the news anchor Howard Beale, who flips live on air with the memorable line: “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!”
The actor, making his London stage debut, won from a shortlist that also included Andrew Scott, Paddy Considine and Andrew Garfield. Cranston said he was grateful to be working in a country with a government that realised culture was an essential element in society to “achieve health and happiness … hopefully that will carry over across the seas.”
Other winners included Bertie Carvel, who won best supporting actor in a play for his portrayal of Rupert Murdoch in Ink by James Graham. Graham also wrote Labour of Love, which won best comedy. The Royal Court play Killology was named winner of outstanding achievement in an affiliate theatre.
Revolutionary musical Hamilton takes home seven Olivier awards
The Royal Opera won best new opera for Semiramide, while its two stars, Joyce DiDonato and Daniela Barcellona, won outstanding achievement in opera.
It was a grey, rainy night, but the ceremony, hosted by Catherine Tate, was a proper show, with performances from the nominated musicals and a celebration of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat featuring stars from its past.
As with other recent awards ceremonies, the sexual harassment scandal and resulting Time’s Up movement was marked by a number of actors who brought activists to the ceremony as their guest.
Meera Syal, for example, was accompanied by Anjum Mouj, chair of the London Black Women’s Project; Pearl Mackie came with Andrea Simon, a campaigner for the End Violence Against Women Coalition; and Atim was accompanied by Marchu Girma, grassroots director for Women for Refugee Women.
There was no repeat of the Oscars and film Baftas where women wore black – a relief, joked Tate: “When you’re ginger and over 40, it is very draining on the complexion.”
The recipient of the Olivier special award was David Lan, who recently stepped down as artistic director of the Young Vic after 18 years in charge.

Full list of winners
  • Best new play – The Ferryman (Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court Theatre and Gielgud Theatre)
  • Best new comedy – Labour of Love (Noël Coward Theatre)
  • Best new dance production – Flight Pattern by Crystal Pite for the Royal Ballet
  • Outstanding achievement in dance – Francesca Velicu for her performance in English National Ballet’s production of Pina Bausch’s Le Sacre Du Printemps (Sadler’s Wells)
  • Best entertainment and family – Dick Whittington (London Palladium)
  • Best costume design – Vicki Mortimer for Follies (National Theatre – Olivier)
  • Delta Live award for best sound design – Nevin Steinberg for Hamilton (Victoria Palace Theatre)
  • Best actor in a supporting role – Bertie Carvel for Ink (Almeida Theatre and Duke of York’s Theatre)
  • Best actress in a supporting role – Denise Gough for Angels in America (National Theatre – Lyttelton)
  • Outstanding achievement in affiliate theatre – Killology (Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre, a co-production with Sherman Theatre Cardiff)
  • Blue-I Theatre Technology award for best set design – Bob Crowley and 59 Productions for An American in Paris (Dominion Theatre)
  • White Light award for best lighting design – Howell Binkley for Hamilton (Victoria Palace Theatre)
  • Best actor – Bryan Cranston for Network (National Theatre – Lyttelton)
  • Best actress – Laura Donnelly for The Ferryman (Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court Theatre and Gielgud Theatre)
  • Best director – Sam Mendes for The Ferryman (Jerwood Theatre Downstairs at the Royal Court Theatre and Gielgud Theatre)
  • Best new opera production – Semiramide (Royal Opera House)
  • Outstanding achievement in opera – Joyce DiDonato and Daniela Barcellona for their performances in Semiramide (Royal Opera House)
  • Best revival – Angels in America (National Theatre – Lyttelton)
  • Outstanding achievement in music – Lin-Manuel Miranda and Alex Lacamoire for Hamilton (Victoria Palace Theatre)
  • Best theatre choreographer – Andy Blankenbuehler for Hamilton (Victoria Palace Theatre)
  • Magic Radio best musical revival – Follies (National Theatre – Olivier)
  • Best actor in a supporting role in a musical – Michael Jibson for Hamilton (Victoria Palace Theatre)
  • Best actress in a supporting role in a musical – Sheila Atim for Girl From the North Country (The Old Vic and Noël Coward Theatre)
  • Best actress in a musical – Shirley Henderson for Girl From the North Country (Old Vic and Noël Coward Theatre)
  • Best actor in a musical – Giles Terera for Hamilton (Victoria Palace Theatre)
  • Mastercard best new musical – Hamilton (Victoria Palace Theatre)
  • Special award – David Lan
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