Entertainment & Arts

Matilda and Ghost battle for What's On Stage awards

Scenes from Ghost The Musical (photo: Sean Ebsworth Barnes) and Matilda The Musical (photo: Manuel Harlan)
Image caption Musicals Ghost and Matilda both have nine nominations

West End musicals Matilda and Ghost will go head to head at the annual Whatsonstage.com Awards with nine nominations each.

Both shows are directed by Matthew Warchus, who is up for best director.

Much Ado About Nothing - with former Doctor Who stars David Tennant and Catherine Tate - is nominated for theatre event of the year.

The nominations were announced at London's Cafe de Paris on Friday. The winners will be revealed in February.

Comedian Tim Minchin, who wrote Matilda's songs, described the nominations as "very flattering".

He said: "From the late Roald Dahl to the tweaks that were made in the final week, it has been such a long journey making what we think is a really well-told story that makes people feel happy and sad. We're very proud of it."

Ghost The Musical's Caissie Levy said: "We've been so embraced by the audiences and the fans have been so devoted - the show is really unique."

Josie Rourke's production of Much Ado About Nothing at Wyndham's Theatre transported Shakespeare's comedy to sun-drenched 1980s Gibraltar.

It goes up against Jeremy Herrin's period production of the same play, which opened a week earlier at the Globe, for best Shakespearean production.

Other theatre event of the year hopefuls include the RSC's 50th anniversary season and theatre re-opening, the Bush Theatre's 66 Books and The Phantom of the Opera's 25th anniversary.

Elsewhere in the 26 award categories, Vanessa Redgrave and James Earl Jones are up for best actress and best actor for the Broadway transfer of Driving Miss Daisy.

The Donmar Warehouse's revival of Anna Christie and the National Theatre's One Man, Two Guvnors have five nominations each. Danny Boyle's Frankenstein at the National has four, with Boyle up for best director.

Musical battle

One Man's James Corden and Anna Christie's Jude Law are both nominated for best actor, alongside Benedict Cumberbatch (Frankenstein), Kevin Spacey (Richard III), and Much Ado's Tennant and Driving Miss Daisy's Jones.

Image caption One Man, Two Guvnors, which stars James Corden, has just opened in the West End

One Man, Two Guvnors is up for best new comedy and earns nominations elsewhere for Jemima Rooper (best supporting actress), Oliver Chris (best supporting actor) and Nicholas Hytner (best director).

Rooper, who plays a cross-dressing role as one of the "Guvnors", said the show's audience interaction made each performance unique.

"We're the same every night, but the 1,500 people who watch are the thing that changes, and we rely so much on them and that energy."

Anna Christie is shortlisted for best play revival, while its star Ruth Wilson faces competition for the best actress prize from Eve Best (Much Ado About Nothing, Globe), Kristin Scott Thomas (Betrayal), Samantha Spiro (Chicken Soup with Barley), Vanessa Redgrave (Driving Miss Daisy) and Tamsin Greig (Jumpy).

Mike Leigh's Grief at the National Theatre is up for best new play, against Richard Bean's The Heretic, while Leigh's production of his 1976 play Ecstasy is shortlisted for best play revival.

In the battle of the big musicals, Ghost and Matilda are up against Crazy for You, Betty Blue Eyes, Rock of Ages, Shrek the Musical, and Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Wizard of Oz.

The stars of Ghost and Matilda compete in all the musical performance categories: including best actor (Ghost's Richard Fleeshman vs Matilda's Bertie Carvel) and best actress (Caissie Levy vs the four young girls who alternate as Matilda).

Also in the running for best actress in a musical are: Amanda Holden (Shrek), Clare Foster (Crazy for You), Emma Williams (Love Story) and Sarah Lancashire (Betty Blue Eyes).

Betty Blue Eyes, which had a total six nominations, opened to rave reviews in April but closed early in September due to poor ticket sales.

Lancashire told the BBC: "The show was critically acclaimed and we've really valued that response, so all we can do is celebrate the success that it was."

Additional best actor in a musical nominees are: Nigel Lindsay (Shrek), Oliver Tompsett (Rock of Ages), Reece Shearsmith (Betty Blue Eyes) and Sean Palmer (Crazy for You).

Les Miserables co-stars Alfie Boe and Matt Lucas compete for best takeover in a role, while the show itself battles Jersey Boys, The Phantom of the Opera, War Horse, We Will Rock You and Wicked for best West End show.

Sheridan Smith, a Whatsonstage.com and Olivier winner for her role in Legally Blonde, is nominated for best supporting actress in Terence Rattigan's Flare Path.

The wartime drama is also up for best play revival, with a best director nod for Trevor Nunn.

Smith said she was "thrilled" with the play's four nominations. She added that she loved the challenge of a role that took her out of her comfort zone.

"After doing something pink and fluffy like Legally Blonde, to do something about the war - and meet surviving pilots from bomber command - was so moving," she said.

The full list of nominees is on the Whatsonstage.com website.

The winners are voted for by theatregoers, and will be revealed on 19 February 2012 at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London.

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