Olivier Awards 2018: Hip hop musical Hamilton dominates

By Lauren Turner
Entertainment reporter

media captionHamilton won seven awards, including best actor in a musical for Giles Terera

Hip hop musical Hamilton has swept the board at the Olivier Awards, picking up seven gongs from its 13 nominations.

It equals Matilda's 2012 record for most Olivier Awards won by a musical.

The West End production of Lin-Manuel Miranda's show about US founding father Alexander Hamilton won best new musical and outstanding achievement in music.

But its creator had to stay away from the London awards, the biggest event in the UK theatrical calendar, having been diagnosed with shingles.

image copyrightMatthew Murphy
image captionHamilton opened in London late last year

It was also a good night for The Ferryman, which picked up three awards.

The drama, set in rural County Armagh in 1981, against the backdrop of The Troubles, won best new play and best director for Sam Mendes, while Laura Donnelly was named best actress.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionLaura Donnelly received the best actress award for her starring role in The Ferryman

Miranda was jointly awarded the outstanding achievement in music prize with orchestrator Alex Lacamoire.

He sent Lacamoire a list of thank yous - set to the music of My Favourite Things - to sing to the audience at the show, at the Royal Albert Hall, on his behalf.

Giles Terera, who won best actor in a musical for his role as Hamilton's nemesis Aaron Burr, said he was "relieved, elated and happy" that Hamilton had done so well.

"We didn't take anything for granted," he said. "But I'm glad we got recognised."

"Every now and then there's a show that comes along and it shifts things, moves it outside the realm of musical theatre," he added, putting Hamilton alongside other great musicals like West Side Story, Les Misérables and Rent.

'Breaking boundaries'

Jamael Westman, who stars as Alexander Hamilton, said the show - which opened in London late last year - was "breaking down barriers, it's breaking down the understanding we have of musical theatre".

He added: "This is re-imagining what it can be, using the hip-hop form and more contemporary types of song and the use of language that is almost Shakespearean.

"It's changing the way that we see theatre and is breaking boundaries. That's why it's been recognised."

Hamilton's other awards include best supporting actor in a musical Michael Jibson, who plays King George III (in a performance that sees him on stage for just eight minutes), as well as best theatre choreographer, best lighting design and best sound design.

Despite being the biggest winner of the night, it failed to break the record for most Olivier Awards set by Harry Potter and the Cursed Child last year when it picked up nine.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionGiles Terera, winner of the best actor in a musical award for Hamilton, alongside Sir Cameron Mackintosh and co-star Michael Jibson, winner of the best actor in a supporting role

Jez Butterworth wrote The Ferryman based on the experiences of his partner Donnelly's family in Northern Ireland.

Picking up the best new play award, Butterworth said: "It's her story. I stayed in with a gin and tonic and she had to go out to work. I knew how much that cost her and how much this will mean."

After picking up her own award, Donnelly - who played widow Caitlin in the original production - said: "I'm thrilled - but I'm in shock. It's what I dreamt of from childhood so to get to this point is surreal."

She said because of the subject matter, she felt a "weight of responsibility I hadn't in any other job to do it justice, because it was so close to home."

The couple are taking The Ferryman to Broadway later this year.

'Supporting imagination'

Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston took the best actor prize for Network for his portrayal of Howard Beale in the National Theatre production.

In his acceptance speech, he said he was grateful to be working in a country that funds the arts, adding: "Hopefully that will continue."

Speaking backstage, he added: "To support children's imagination and their ability to grow in a social, emotional way, [the arts are] more important than learning the dates of a war."

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionFormer Breaking Bad star Bryan Cranston won the best actor award for his performance in Network

Other highlights of the ceremony, hosted by Catherine Tate, included:

  • Bertie Carvel being named best actor in a supporting role for Ink
  • James Graham winning best new comedy for Labour of Love
  • Stephen Sondheim's Follies winning best musical revival
  • Killology winning outstanding achievement in affiliate theatre
  • Dick Whittington winning the Olivier for best entertainment and family show

Denise Gough was named best supporting actress for Angels in America.

Gough was not there to collect her award, but in a statement read by actress Ophelia Lovibond, she highlighted the importance of the Time's Up movement. Several actresses brought feminist activists as their guests, and many others wore Time's Up and 50/50 pins or rings to show their support.

Angels in America also won best revival, with director Marianne Elliott saying: "No one thought we could do this. It's a monolith of a play. This is extraordinary - it's the proudest I've ever been."

Bob Dylan-inspired musical Girl from the North Country was also honoured, with Shirley Henderson winning best actress in a musical and Sheila Atim winning best supporting role in a musical.

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionShirley Henderson being helped on to the stage by Cuba Gooding Jr

Atim seemed genuinely shocked by her win.

"Guys, guys - this is mental!" she said.

One of the first people she thanked was Bob Dylan, "for writing this stuff before I was born".

image copyrightGetty Images
image captionSheila Atim thanked the women of colour who had won Olivier Awards before her

She then thanked women of colour who had won Olivier Awards before her.

"To me, it is very, very important. I really hope - especially with Time's Up and the 50/50 movement - that there will be more women who look like me up here."

Shirley Henderson said it felt "crazy" to win, and that the script for Girl From the North Country had been "everything I'd been looking for, for a long time" - having not been on the stage for 17 years.

David Lan won the special award in recognition of his outstanding contribution for his artistic directorship of the Young Vic.

Performances included one from past stars of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat - including Jason Donovan and Lee Mead - to mark the 50th anniversary of the Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical.

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