Olivier Awards: Fat girls, drag queens and classics

Hairspray

is the toast of London these days, and (probably) with good reason.
(I haven’t seen the London production, but the Broadway production was
amazing when it was new.) After winning eight Tony Awards in 2003 (nominated for 13), the musical
just broke Olivier Award
records
by receiving
a whopping 11 nominations.

When I saw Hairspray

during its first week of previews in 2002, I was ecstatic to see such
a smart song-and-dance show that perfectly married showtunes with ’60s
pop. It outclassed everything then on Broadway (other than Urinetown),
and nothing that’s been produced since has impressed me as much. But
even better than the show was creator John Waters’ observation:

“The real reason I’m praying
that Hairspray, the Broadway musical based on my 1988 movie, succeeds
is that if it’s a hit, there will be high school productions, and finally
the fat girl and the drag queen will get the starring parts.”

Well, now the fat girls and
drag queens in the U.K. are going to get the starring parts, too, because
the show is definitely a hit. So, yay.

And it’s not just the future secondary
school students who will benefit. Newcomer Leanne Jones received
a nomination for Best Actress in a Musical.

Speaking of Best Actress nominations,
though, the star power the Best Actress in a Play category
is approaching supernova proportions. There’s Kristin Scott Thomas

for her role in Checkov’s The Seagull.

And Fiona Shaw for Happy Days.

And Penelope Wilton
for John Gabriel Borkman.

And then there are two other
actresses I’m not familiar with, so I’m not going to discuss them.

I tried to get a ticket
for The Seagull last February because when I told all my theater buddies
that I was going to London, they all said, “Go see The Seagull.”
And I tried. And failed. Alas. There was not a ticket to be had. But
I have no doubt that Kristin Scott Thomas’ performance was award-worthy.
However, I don’t know that it was better than Penelope Wilton’s performance
in John Gabriel Borkman. When I couldn’t get a Seagull

ticket, I saw that instead, and had no regrets. Wilton was absolutely
mesmerizing and, due to the intimacy of the theatre, I was sitting about
15 feet from her.

And then there’s Fiona Shaw
— the brilliant, talented, amazing actress (and girlfriend of Saffron Burrows).
I saw Happy Days at the Brooklyn Academy of Music last month
and, oh my, she was good. Buried up to her waist and then her neck for
the entire show, Shaw gave such a funny, haunting and thought-provoking
performance that it’s still rattling around in my head. She made me
like Beckett, and I didn’t think that was possible.

So, basically, I’m pulling
for all of them, because I hate the thought of any of the three losing.
But I guess I’ll have to deal because awards ceremonies don’t actually
work that way. Regardless, I’ll be following the awards online on March
9.

You can see a full list of
the nominations here. Has anyone seen any of the nominated
shows/performers? If so, please post your reviews and predictions.

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