After six months of planning and sleepless nights for the last week, the third annual West End Wilma awards took place on Friday afternoon, once again at the Hippodrome Casino in Leicester Square.
Twelve categories were shortlisted by me and my team of reviewers and back in September was put out to the public vote to ensure the winners were voted for by the real fans of theatre.
Kinky Boots and Titanic both received two awards. Kinky Boots for Best West End Musical and Best Actor In A Musical (Matt Henry) and Titanic won Best Off-West End Production and Best Actor/Actress In an Off-West End Show (Claire Machin). The National Theatre production of People, Places and Things won the award for Best West End Play and was presented to writer Duncan MacMillan by the star of the other hit National Theatre production, The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time, Joseph Ayre.
Mazz Murray beat off competition from Denise Gough (People, Places and Things) and Jenna Russell (Doctor Faustus) to take home Best Actress In A Musical for her portrayal of Tanya in Mamma Mia. She was presented the award by X Factor winner (and recent Mamma Morton in Chicago) Sam Bailey, who dropped to the floor in awe of Mazz as she walked on stage. Mazz collected the award in true rock and roll style, admitting she was still drunk from the night before and treated the audience to an impromptu audition song she once made up for Cameron Mackintosh (a rather rude variation on My Favourite Things). Tracie Bennett collected the award for Most Underrated West End Show for Mrs Henderson Presents, explaining that when she first heard about the nomination she wasn’t sure if being classed as Underrated was a good or bad thing so consulted the Urban Dictionary and found several definitions which she read out to the audience. Up and coming Rising Star, Sam Wearing gave an emotional tribute to his late mother who would have loved to be here to see him win this award and explained he felt like he had just won a Tony Award.
Last years winner of the Best Cabaret/Solo Show, Rachel Tucker (who couldn’t be there to collect her award last year as she was performing on Broadway) presented the award that she won last year to her fellow Elphaba, Kerry Ellis and the current Glinda, Suzie Mathers presented the award for Best Understudy which went to Natasha Barnes for Funny Girl.
Basil, Sybil and Manuel from the Faulty Towers Dining Experience gave a comedy performance whilst presenting the award for Best Comedy which went to Nina Conti, who sadly couldn’t be at the ceremony as she is currently on tour. The Rocky Horror Show won Best Touring Production and were also on the road and so gave their acceptance speech via video link. Other special guests at the ceremony included Cassidy Jansen (currently playing Carole King in Beautiful), Big Brother’s Andy West, Birds of a Feather star Lesley Joseph and best selling crime author Martina Cole.
Back to host the Wilma Awards for the third year running was a great friend of mine, Tim McArthur, who despite being severely mugged and beaten a few days before didn’t let that stop him from comparing a wonderful ceremony and belting out La Cage Aux Folles (even with a fractured jaw). Comedian Sooz Kempner gave a rendition of Musical Director Alexander Bermange’s comedy Audition Song which had the stagey crowd in stitches as the scenarios and references were all too familiar to some. Best Comedy nominees The Four Femmes On The Thames gave a rendition of their hit feminist song Woman Up which shocked the audience to begin with but had them laughing hysterically after the profanities being delivered were settled in to.
This year I have released a special charity single in aid of the National Autistic Society, to help stage more relaxed theatre performances. Blood Brothers writer Willy Russell very generously allowed us the rights to record a comedic re-write of Tell Me It’s Not True with lyrics and vocals by West End performer Kieran Brown (who returned to the Wilma Awards for the third year in a row to perform).
I would just like to thanks every single person who voted, bought tickets, sponsored awards, gave their time to present and perform at the ceremony and helped to make the 2016 Wilma Awards a success.