Tuesday, 21 February 2017

REVIEW: WhatsOnStage 17th Annual Awards

It’s one of the highlights of any theatre-goers year – The WhatsOnStage Awards. This year’s 17th Annual concert was packed to the brim with the biggest and brightest stars of London’s West End. With Harry Potter and The Cursed Child leading the nominations, closely followed by Half A Sixpence, the evening promised to be filled with the crème de la crème of theatre.

The Prince Of Wales Theatre - featuring 1100 goodie bags
for every guest at the awards
The evening was hosted by Simon Lipkin (Avenue Q, Guys and Dolls) and Vikki Stone who has previously been described as “the bastard love child of Victoria Wood and Tim Minchin”! These two musical theatre buffs were so at ease and wonderfully charming hosts. Quick witted jokes and sharp comedy injected a relaxation into the evening which was gratefully received. Lipkin in particular seemed to pride himself on his close-to-the-belt gags. For example, he introduced the evening by saying “This of this like the Oliviers or the Tony’s, just without all the gravitas” and later in the evening revived his old friend Trekkie Monster (Avenue Q) and proceeded to have a conversation with a wall which began “Oh, hello Russell Crowe. I thought you were great in the Les Mis movie”. Needless to say, the audience were in stitches. 

Hosts - Simon Lipkin and Vikki Stone
Lipkin and Stone paid homage to the genius of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s ‘Hamilton’ in their own rap versions of two songs from the show which were received with rapturous applause. Overall, it was their willingness to not take themselves too seriously, nor the evening itself, which made them such wonderful hosts. I hope to see them hosting together again in the future.

The Cast of School Of Rock (Best New Musical)
The evening started with a wonderful overture of the critically acclaimed smash hit musical, La La Land, played by the live WOS orchestra, followed by a fist pumping show from Gary Trainor and the kids from School Of Rock. The evening worked its way swiftly through the awards with Harry Potter and The Cursed Child picking up 4 awards in the first half including crowd favourite Jamie Parker’s win for Best Actor In A Play. His win, though unsurprising to many in the audience, was clearly a big shock for him as he was jittery and endearingly inarticulate throughout his acceptance speech. Charming nevertheless and we are of course thrilled for him and his deserving victory. 

Jamie Parker
Emma Williams (Half A Sixpence – Best Supporting Actress in a Musical) also made the audience laugh with her wonderful speech which started “I must thank my parents who sadly aren’t with us tonight. No, they’re not dead! They’re in Yorkshire!”

Emma Williams
Tyrone Huntley, currently starring as CC in Dreamgirls (The Savoy), sang Heaven on Their Minds from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s smash-hit Jesus Christ Superstar. What a knockout performance that was! His Dreamgirls castmates Liisi LaFontaine and Amber Riley (who later in the evening went on to win Best Actress in a Musical for her portrayal of Effie White) closed Act 1 with a sensational performance of “Listen” which received a standing ovation. 

Amber Riley 

We were also treated to performances from Joanna Riding (The Girls) accompanied by Gary “That was absolutely fantastic” Barlow, Trever Dion Nicholas (Winner of Best Supporting Actor in a Musical for his role as Genie in Aladdin) and Dean John-Wilson and the incomparable Ria Jones who performed As If We Never Said Goodbye (Sunset Boulevard).

Willemijn Verkaik, Oliver Saville and
Susie Mathers
Special mention must go to the exceptionally enthusiastic group of performers behind me for their wonderful impromptu sing-along to the Entr’acte – a medley of Stephen Schwartz’s ‘Wicked’s most popular tunes! Wicked went on to win Best West End Show in a WOS first dead-heat with Les Miserables.
Noma Dumezwemi 
There were a few wonderful acceptance speeches throughout the evening, but I must mention Noma Dumezweni for her heart-warming humility and pure spirit. She quite literally danced her way onto the stage to accept her award for Best Supporting Actress in a Play (as Hermione Granger in Harry Potter and The Cursed Child). Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was the biggest winner of the evening, taking home eight awards, a record number of WhatsOnStage Awards won for a play.

Cameron Mackintosh

The evening drew to a close with the Equity Award for Services to Theatre Tribute being award to the one and only Sir Cameron Mackintosh for 50 years of incredible work in show business, followed by ‘Flash, Bang, Wallop” from his cast of Half A Sixpence led by the Best Actor In A Musical winner, 23 year old Charlie Stemp (who has been cited by the Sunday Telegraph as “the stuff of legend” – and rightly so!)
Charlie Stemp 
The WhatsOnStage Awards are voted for by the public, and this evening is a wonderful celebration of that. For theatregoers everywhere, it’s a chance to bask in the glow of your favourite stars and be part of one of the biggest theatrical celebrations in the calendar year. It’s an evening not to be missed, and one which I was humbled and proud to be a part of.

Review by Harriet Langdown 

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