Olivier Awards 2024: Nicole Scherzinger musical Sunset Boulevard equals record

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  • By Steven McIntosh
  • Entertainment reporter

Image caption, Scherzinger joked she had dreamed of many musical roles – but Norma Desmond had never been one of them

Sunset Boulevard was the big winner at Sunday’s Olivier Awards, equalling the record for the most prizes for a musical at the ceremony.

Its seven wins included best musical revival and acting awards for its stars Nicole Scherzinger and Tom Francis.

Other winners included Succession star Sarah Snook, who won best actress for her performance in an adaptation of The Picture of Dorian Gray.

Accepting her award, Scherzinger joked: “I always really wanted to be a singer and do musicals, and I dreamed of so many roles that I wanted to do. And honestly this role, Norma Desmond, was not one of those roles.

“But God works in mysterious ways,” she laughed as the audience applauded, “because it’s honestly one of the ballsiest and bravest things I’ve ever done, and I’ve had an incomparable director Jamie Lloyd to thank for that.”

Sunset Boulevard’s seven wins means it ties with Cabaret, Matilda and Hamilton for the most trophies ever for a musical in a single night.

Lloyd’s revival of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical was staged with a monochrome colour scheme and a minimalist set design.

But its lack of scenery, colour and props didn’t stop it from garnering five-star reviews from critics, particularly for Scherzinger, who shot to fame two decades ago with girl group the Pussycat Dolls. The musical closed in London in January but is due to transfer to Broadway later this year.

Scherzinger’s co-star Francis thanked the security team at the Savoy Theatre “for making me feel safe every night” – a reference partly to one section where he walks out of the theatre onto the streets of London while being followed by video cameras.

One-woman winner

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Sarah Snook plays 26 characters in the one-woman production of The Picture Of Dorian Gray

Sarah Snook, who scored an Emmy Award earlier this year for her performance in HBO’s Succession, continued her winning streak at the Oliviers, which were held at the Royal Albert Hall.

In her acceptance speech, Snook said it was an “incredible honour to be on the stage in the West End”.

“It’s billed as a one-woman show but it’s not, the crew are on stage with me every night, and they are a vital and constant support, and inspirational.”

Snook is surrounded by stage crew throughout the show, who help with costume and scene changes. The production also makes use of technology, with Snook interacting with other characters on screens using footage she has pre-recorded.

One-person shows have been a particular trend in the West End in recent months, with Andrew Scott, Jodie Comer and Billy Crudup among the other stars performing solo.

Another one-man show, a production of Anton Chekhov’s Vanya starring Andrew Scott, was named best play revival.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Haydn Gwynne, who died in October aged 66, won best supporting actress

Six months after her death at 66, Haydn Gwynne was named best supporting actress for her performance in When Winston Went to War with the Wireless.

The play, written by Jack Thorne, examined the power struggles between the UK government and the BBC in the 1920s. It was staged at the Donmar Warehouse for two months last summer.

Accepting the award on her behalf, her son Orlando Phipps said: “I really don’t know what my mum would have said if she was here, but it was a career-long dream of hers to win an Olivier, so she would’ve been thrilled.

“She loved the stage above all other kinds of acting. She said if you came away from the show having made one good friend, it was worth doing, and she often made many.”

The actress was also known for TV shows including Drop the Dead Donkey, Peak Practice, Merseybeat and The Windsors.

Dear England triumphs

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Image caption, Will Close was named best supporting actor for his portrayal of footballer Harry Kane in Dear England

The award for best new play went to Dear England, which is about Gareth Southgate and the England football team. Accepting the award, writer James Graham joked: “I literally can’t kick a ball, I don’t know why I’m here.”

He used his acceptance speech to thank the teachers at his Nottingham comprehensive school, adding that he was “so grateful” for his teachers for thinking “working class kids” should learn theatre.

Will Close won best supporting actor and thanked footballer Harry Kane, whom he played in the production, and co-star Joseph Fiennes for being a “hero”.

“In the words of Harry, this is really nice,” he smiled. The actor dedicated the award to “my mum who passed away during Covid”, adding: “Here’s to all the single mums in council housing.”

Gah-tiss or Gay-tiss?

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Image caption, Mark Gatiss said he had been correcting mispronunciations of his name for 57 years

Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was The Motive And The Cue star Mark Gatiss winning best actor in a play.

It had been one of the starriest categories of the evening, with Gatiss holding off competition from David Tennant, Andrew Scott, James Norton and Joseph Fiennes.

After his name was mis-pronounced, the actor opened his acceptance speech by saying: “It’s Gay-tiss, by the way.” The audience laughed and applauded as he added: “I’ve been saying that for 57 years.”

He described his role as “the part of a lifetime, that’s all I can say”, and paid tribute to writer Jack Thorne and director Sir Sam Mendes. He thanked his husband, actor and writer Ian Hallard, for “putting up with my haircut for the last two years”.

Stranger Things ‘freaks’

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Image caption, Writer Kate Trefry thanked the fans of the hugely successful Netflix franchise Stranger Things “for being freaks”

Elsewhere, best new musical went to Operation Mincemeat, which has been extended several times since its West End transfer following rave reviews from audiences and critics.

The show also won best supporting actor in a musical for Jak Malone, who thanked his “amazing partner Jasmine, and my really handsome dog Dracula”.

“When I was 13 I won best actor at a drama festival in Merseyside,” he recalled. “And my nanny Joan leapt with such pride that she had to collect her glasses from a stranger a few seats behind her, and if nanny Joan was here tonight, I think we’d have to peel her off the ceiling.”

Meanwhile, best new entertainment or comedy play went to Stranger Things: The First Shadow, which serves as a prequel to the Netflix series.

Writer Kate Trefry said that winning was “psychotic”, and thanked creators Matt and Ross Duffer, as well as the “fans, for being freaks”.

‘My first Olivier at 80’

Image caption, Dame Arlene Phillips said co-choreographer James Cousins helped demonstrate moves when she had issues with her knees

Dame Arlene Phillips won best theatre choreography for Guys & Dolls, commenting: “This is hysterical, I’m now 80 and it’s my first Olivier Award,” prompting a standing ovation from the crowd.

She thanked fellow choreographer James Cousins for helping her by “crawling around” on the floor to demonstrate the movements when she had issues with her knees.

Other winners included Amy Trigg, who won best supporting actress in a musical for The Little Big Things. “I never dreamed our little show would come to this, and it just means so much that it has,” she said.

However, one nominee who was not in attendance was Hollywood actress Sarah Jessica Parker.

The Sex and the City star finished her residency in London’s West End, where she has been appearing in Plaza Suite, on Saturday night, but was understood to be flying home to the US on Sunday.

The winners in full

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Vanya, starring Andrew Scott (second right, not including the statues), was named best play revival

Best new play – Dear England

Best new musical – Operation Mincemeat

Best new entertainment or comedy play – Stranger Things: The First Shadow

Best play revival – Vanya

Best musical revival – Sunset Boulevard

Best family show – Dinosaur World Live

Best new opera production – Innocence by the Royal Opera

Best new dance production – La Ruta

Best director – Jamie Lloyd, Sunset Boulevard

Best actor in a play – Mark Gatiss, The Motive And The Cue

Best actress in a play – Sarah Snook, The Picture Of Dorian Gray

Best actor in a musical – Tom Francis, Sunset Boulevard

Best actress in a musical – Nicole Scherzinger, Sunset Boulevard

Best supporting actor in a play – Will Close, Dear England

Best supporting actress in a play – Haydn Gwynne, When Winston Went To War With The Wireless

Best supporting actress in a musical – Amy Trigg, The Little Big Things

Best supporting actor in a musical – Jak Malone, Operation Mincemeat

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption, Backstage, Snook was reunited with her Succession co-star Brian Cox, who played her media mogul father Logan Roy

Best theatre choreographer – Arlene Phillips with James Cousins, Guys & Dolls

Best costume design – Marg Horwell, The Picture Of Dorian Gray

Best sound design – Adam Fisher, Sunset Boulevard

Best set design – Miriam Buether and 59 Productions, Stranger Things: The First Shadow

Best lighting design – Jack Knowles, Sunset Boulevard

Outstanding achievement in opera – Antonio Pappano for his role as musical director of the Royal Opera House

Outstanding achievement in dance – Isabela Coracy for her performance in NINA: By Whatever Means

Outstanding achievement in affiliate theatre – Sleepova by Matilda Feyişayo

Outstanding musical contribution – Alan Williams, Sunset Boulevard

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