Tag Archives: Olivier Awards

Ode to the Oliviers

Scene from "Matilda the Musical" featuring characters Matilda and Mrs. Phelps (Image: Quirk Books). The show earned seven 2012 Olivier Awards.

I spent a lovely afternoon at Sunday’s Lawrence Olivier Awards in London thanks to a live online broadcast that’s got me appreciating all the modern technology I’ve typically scoffed at until now.

I was just a teen when the awards, first dubbed The Society of West End Theatre Awards, originated in 1976, but married and in graduate school when they became the Lawrence Olivier Awards in 1984.

In between, I studied for a year in Europe — but spent most trips to London exploring museums and architectural wonders rather than theater offerings. One of many oversights committed during my youth.

The awards are run by the Society of London Theatre (SOLT), which commissioned sculptor Harry Franchette to create the award that’s an elegant take on the young Lawrence Olivier as Henry V at the Old Vic in 1937.

I was struck by several aspects of the ceremony and its broadcast. Though the SOLT’s partnership with MasterCard is evident, there were no tacky commercials or other interruptions we accept too readily as American television viewers.

Instead, breaks during various portions of the ceremony were filled with live performances — of works nominated for an audience award — on a beautiful outdoor stage surrounded by theater fans.

The BBC Radio 2 Olivier Audience Award, voted for by the public, went to “Les Miserables” — a musical Arizona audiences can enjoy at ASU Gammage come September.

I was struck as well by the tasteful fashions worn by presenters, nominees and recipients — despite the ceremony’s lovely lack of obsession over such things. Way to rock the flats, “Matilda” girls. You’ll need those ankles for future roles.

“Matilda the Musical” led the list with ten nominations, and waltzed away with seven awards. The Royal Shakespeare Company production is based on Roald Dahl’s charming tale.

The musical’s director noted early in the ceremony that “productions are like children” — sharing that he’d still love both if one of two nominees he directed was chosen best new musical. Later, the award went to “Matilda the Musical.”

There’s a point in the musical, he explains, when Matilda pummels three times into her pillow — then looks up and shares the final bit of the story. Seems it’s “a metaphor for the healing power of imagination.”

“Matilda the Musical” director Matthew Warchus then delivered my favorite remarks of the evening — All kids have it. We all have it. Our educational system should promote it more. That was the gist of it — but there’s more.

Creative imagination, says Warchus, is the key to surviving life and improving it for all of us. It’s more important, he reflects, than science, math and testing — perhaps even literacy.

His riff made me wonder — Might more children achieve the literacy we so value if reading and writing were pressed more often into the service of creative imagination rather than the mere consumption of content?

They’re heady things, these British award shows. Words and ideas loom larger than the flashy sorts of sets and such we seem to favor for award shows on this side of the pond. Dry wit and genuine humility trump the faux and flashy.

Sunday’s ceremony included special recognition of the 60th anniversary of “Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap” — which continues to enjoy the theater world’s longest continuous run.

Seems Christie grandson Matthew Prichard, who shared remarks during the presentation, was given rights to the show for his ninth birthday — but admits to feeling fonder at the time of the gift with two wheels. Prichard notes that he gives income earned on the show to lots of charities.

I learned of the Mousetrap Theatre Projects, which serves more than 12,000 students each year, during remarks from its founder — which inspired me to explore other outreach efforts like the SOLT’s own “Autism and Theatre” program.

The Society of London Theatre presented two special awards during this year’s ceremony — one to Dame Monica Mason, honoring her career with the Royal Ballet, and another to lyricist Sir Tim Rice.

Rice shared reflections on the journey of “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” from school show to musical theater sensation, and his reluctance to make the original “Jesus Christ Superstar” album — also noting that NYC audiences are fonder by far of current “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Evita” revivals than NYC theater critics.

My own budding theater critic, Lizabeth, had perfectly lovely things to say about both shows — but did share that seeing Ricky Martin shake his bum during “Evita” was rather the low point of it all. I’ll have to add seeing a slew of West End theatre productions together to my bucket list.

While I adored every performance during Sunday’s Olivier Awards show, a few will likely live longest in my memory — a stunning pas de deux that should be required viewing for all those “Dance Moms” settling for sickening alternatives to actual artistry, the vocal performance of a haunting song from “Whistle Down the Wind” that I first heard when Lizabeth performed it during a Greasepaint Youtheatre fundraiser, and the lavish “Circle of Life” from the cast of “The Lion King” — which made me remember the magic of seeing the musical with Lizabeth long before her NYC theater adventures.

I’ll be more mindful of the bridge between Broadway and the West End thanks to that one magical evening I felt honored to be part of the virtual audience for the 2012 Olivier Awards. London, anyone?

– Lynn

Note: Click here to see the full list of Olivier Award winners and highlights from the ceremony — plus here to enjoy West End news reported by Broadway World.

Coming up: Musings on “Smash” and “New York 22″

I’d rather be…

It's "Plan B" time as a bout of bronchitis has me reading "Blue Like Jazz" and watching the "Olivier Awards" online during a weekend I'd hoped to spend at Valley theaters

I did something last week that surely shocked the folks who know me really well. After learning the second leg of my Southwest flight between Newark and Phoenix was delayed, I ended up spending another night in NYC. Too frugal to pop for another night at a hotel, the wheels started turning. What to do with an extra night in NYC?

Too tired for Springsteen? That should have been my first clue.

I remembered that Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band were performing at Madison Square Gardens, and daughter Lizabeth quickly jumped online to discover that StubHub tickets were posted for prices lower than your average hotel room.

Then things got really weird — becaused I just didn’t have the oomph to get up and go. I love me some Bruce and the band, and was especially eager to see young musicians in his new brass section rock the house, but figured hiking all those arena stairs might be the death of me. (There are worse ways to go, but “gone” is one place I’d rather not be.)

Lizabeth suggested other options more suitable for a mom still recovering from recent knee surgery, including mother-daughter craft time at Make Meaning – but decided to save that adventure for her summer back home since the NYC-based company also has a Scottsdale Quarter location — which buys us more time to choose between glass, soap, jewelry, paper, candles, ceramics and other creative options.

Folks in Arizona can enjoy the Tribeca Film Festival online

We ended up taking the subway to Tribeca — where this year’s Tribeca Film Festival (which has an online component for folks like me who can’t get to the NYC event) opens in just a few days. We enjoyed a splendid stoll, stopping at some her favorite NYC haunts — including Strand Book Store, where I wistfully admired the black and white photo of Springsteen she’d spotted weeks before on a postcard rack near the entrance.

Also dinner at a diner with festive orange and yellow walls that’s called “S’MAC” because the only dish they serve is macaroni and cheese. Think oodles of noodles delivered skillet-style in endless gourmet variations. When I texted James to tell him where we’d landed, he shot back a brief “How hipster of you” reply. I quickly responded in praise of sporting a vocab that includes “hipster.”

Let's hope someone tells the Mother's Day fairy about this baby

I wasn’t hip enough, apparently, because I’d forgotten that it was my last chance to see Simon Callow perform Jonathan Bate’s “Being Shakepeare” at the Brooklyn Music Academy — which prides itself on being America’s oldest performing arts center (think 1861). Silly, really, considering that my last trip to NYC opened with a glorious exploration of Keith Haring works exhibited at the Brooklyn Museum.

After dropping Lizabeth off at her dorm after dinner, I played “musical Starbucks” until the last of them located near Pace University shut out the lights. I was ready to move on after enduring far too many boisterous barista solos. I hailed a cab for the Newark airport, where I snagged the lone electrical outlet at a Dunkin’ Donuts and curbed the urge to indulge as the smell of freshly baked glazed goodies wafted through the air. It beat sleeping on the floor.

I landed at Sky Harbor Airport just as James was hopping a flight to NYC for his turn at Liz time, but realized later that day that pulling the all-nighter was a serious mistake. I was pooped, and in the early stages of the bronchitis that now finds me bedbound during a weekend I’d hoped to enjoy nearly back-to-back shows from a long list of options.

Think Childsplay’s “Tomas the the Library Lady,” Theater Works’ “All Through the Night” and/or “Sakura no Ne” (a collaboration with the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix), Cookie Company’s “Charlotte’s Web,” Valley Youth Theatre’s “Freckleface Strawberry,” Rising Arts’ “Sleeping Beauty,” and Desert Stages Theatre’s “Altar Boyz” and/or “How to Succeed in Business Without Even Trying.” They’re all places I’d rather be at this point — but nobody wants to sit by the constant cougher, it’s never nice to share such things.

I'm rooting for RSC and Roald Dahl while watching the Olivier Awards online

Instead, I’ve developed a bit of a plan B. Watching streaming video of Britain’s Olivier Awards, especially eager to see how the Royal Shakespeare Company’s “Matilda the Musical” (based on the book by Roald Dahl) fares. Cuddling up with Donald Miller’s “Blue Like Jazz” and Paul Torday’s “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” (hoping I’ll bounce back enough this week to catch them on the big screen). And reading online guides for upcoming productions like “Red” (Arizona Theater Company) and “Much Ado About Nothing” (Southwest Shakespeare Company).

Those of you with more bounce in your step can find plenty of ways to enjoy the rest of your weekend by exploring the Raising Arizona Kids calendar in print or online. If you experience an especially nifty concert, art exhibit, dance performance or show — feel free to comment below to let our readers know.

– Lynn

Coming up: Art meets Earth Day, Musings on Mental Health Month

Note: Remember too that you can explore a comprehensive list of summer camps on the Raising Arizona Kids magazine website — click here to find this and other resources for readers. (Final shameless plug — Subsciptions to Raising Arizona Kids magazine make easy, practical and affordable Mother’s Day gifts.)