You can’t really go wrong with seeing the highest quality of West End theatrical talent, from some of the biggest shows of the year in the intimate, two-tier space of the Prince of Wales Theatre. So reviewing something like the WhatsOnStage Awards isn’t difficult to do.
One of the most entertaining and light-hearted awards ceremonies in the London theatrical calendar. Rough around the edges at times, with some lack of rehearsal in the opening group number and the odd technical issue, but it all adds to the charm and humour of the night.
Performance highlights included the likes of Follies’ Janie Dee and the casts of 42nd Street and Bat Out Of Hell performing selected songs from their respective productions. Brilliantly adapted for the intimacy of the Prince of Wales compared to the Olivier, Drury Lane or the Coliseum, it allowed a more up-front emphasis on the vocals without the distraction of their own set, lighting or props. An honourable mention to Andrew Polec for using the on-stage speaker as a prop and his high-octane energy on stage; it was a thrill to see him live having previously missed out on seeing him at the Coliseum.
The ‘wish list’ song medley was an ingenious idea — to commend musicals well loved across the pond on Broadway, along with possibly giving investors and producers sitting in the audience a nudge nudge on what shows should be coming to Theatreland. Casting for this number was spot on, with Tyrone Huntley singing Dear Evan Hansen’s ‘Waving Through A Window’, Alice Fearn performing Waitress’ ‘She Used To Be Mine’ and Hannah-Jane Fox performing a number from Come From Away. Each of these actors could be cast instantly in their respective musical.
Not only does this awards show celebrate the performing success of London theatre, but it was great to see the unsung technical heroes of the industry have their own moment to be rewarded. To see the winners for Best Show Poster and Best Cast Recording take to the stage to give thanks and not be given a time limit for their speeches unlike other award ceremonies, this was a reminder of the camaraderie and passion from all of the industry on the night. However, perhaps if they are to continue with these specific awards, it would be good to recognise talent from the past year rather than acknowledging the likes of Les Misérables, Wicked or Cats. It’s not like they haven’t been given awards before!
Sonia Friedman was the most well-deserved winner of the night hands down, picking up the Equity Award For Services To Theatre. How she hasn’t been personally awarded for her lifetime services to theatre in previous years is surprising, considering that nearly every winner on the night mentioned Sonia in their speech. This truly shows the influence she has and will continue to have in the industry for years (probably decades) to come.
Despite technical issues here and there, the WhatsOnStage Awards proved how it acknowledges all paths and sectors of the industry, providing a proper well-rounded celebration of theatre.
Reviewed by Jack Grey
Full list of winners at the 2018 Whats On Stage Awards
BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY – David Tennant, Don Juan in Soho
BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY – Olivia Colman, Mosquitoes
BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL – John McCrea, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL – Carrie Hope Fletcher, The Addams Family
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A PLAY – Fra Fee, The Ferryman
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A PLAY – Juliet Stevenson, Hamlet
BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL Ross Noble, Young Frankenstein
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL – Lucie Shorthouse, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
BEST NEW PLAY SPONSORED – The Ferryman
BEST NEW MUSICAL – Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
BEST PLAY REVIVAL – Hamlet
BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL – 42nd Street
BEST DIRECTION – Sam Mendes, The Ferryman
BEST CHOREOGRAPHY – Randy Skinner, 42nd Street
BEST COSTUME DESIGN – Roger Kirk, 42nd Street
BEST SET DESIGN – Douglas W. Schmidt, 42nd Street
BEST LIGHTING DESIGN – Patrick Woodroffe, Bat Out of Hell
BEST VIDEO DESIGN – 59 Productions, An American in Paris
BEST OFF-WEST END PRODUCTION – Hair
BEST REGIONAL PRODUCTION – Sunset Boulevard
BEST ORIGINAL CAST RECORDING – Les Misérables
BEST SHOW POSTER – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
BEST WEST END SHOW – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
EQUITY AWARD FOR SERVICES TO THEATRE – Sonia Friedman