Winners were announced today in the 28th annual Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards in an event held at lunchtime today (30 January 2018) the West End’s Prince of Wales Theatre (hosted by Drama section chair Mark Shenton and organised by his MyTheatreMates co-founder Terri Paddock). Follies, Hamilton and The Ferryman were amongst the big production winners, along with Bryan Cranston, Victoria Hamilton and Andrew Scott, with three awards going to National Theatre productions and two to Almeida Theatre productions.
Opening just before Christmas to rave reviews, the London version of the multi award-winning Broadway hit Hamilton has won its first major prize outside the USA – Best Musical at the 2017 Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards.
Earmarked by Cameron Mackintosh as the production to launch his multi-million-pound refurbishment of the Victoria Palace Theatre, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop flavoured show was one of 2017’s most eagerly-anticipated West End premieres. This first major British award – voted for by secret ballot by London’s top theatre critics – can be added to its 11 Tony Awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album in its trophy cabinet.
Unusually for the critics’ annual event, for which there is only the single category specifically allocated to musicals, musicals dominated today’s ceremony. The staging of Stephen Sondheim’s legendary musical Follies in the Olivier at the National Theatre, with a cast of 37 and an orchestra of 21, saw Dominic Cooke named Best Director and Vicki Mortimer Best Designer.
Meanwhile, two stars of acclaimed new British musicals, Sheila Atim in Girl From the North Country and John McCrea in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, were jointly named Best Newcomer.
Elsewhere, American Bryan Cranston was named Best Actor for his performance as TV news anchorman Howard Beale in Network at the National Theatre. And Victoria Hamilton won Best Actress for her performance as Audrey Walters in Albion at the Almeida. This is her fourth Critics’ Circle Award (third for Best Actress): she previously won in 2004 Best Actress for Suddenly Last Summer; 2000 Best Actress for As You Like It; 1995 Most Promising Newcomer for The Master Builder and Retreat.
Andrew Scott was named Best Shakespearean Performance for Hamlet at the Almeida Theatre and West End transfer to the Harold Pinter Theatre. And Jez Butterworth’s Best New Play win for The Ferryman is his third Critics award for Best New Play: he previously won for Mojo in 1995 and Jerusalem (2009).
In a newly created category, critics presented a Special Award for services to theatre to David Lan, who this year steps down after nearly two decades as artistic director of London’s Young Vic Theatre.
Drama Section Chair Mark Shenton said:
“Where other award ceremonies prioritise celebrity winners, see the industry rewarding itself or act as a public popularity contest, the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards alone are above the fray with their independence, judged by respected critics whose job it is to see theatre week in, week out, without fear or favour, and who have no other agenda than to celebrate excellence.
“Critics are invited to reward their favourite contributions to creative excellence equally across plays and musicals, so it is particularly striking this year to see the National Theatre’s production of Follies rewarded for Best Director and Best Designer, as well as both of the Most Promising Newcomer recipients seen in other musical-led shows, plus the UK’s first major award so far for Hamilton.”
At today’s event, the exclusive invited audience also enjoyed three special musical performances:
- Joint Best Newcomer winner John McCrea sang a specially arranged version Out of the Darkness (Into the Spotlight) from Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, and was accompanied on guitar by the show’s composer (and The Feeling frontman) Dan Gillespie-Sells.
- Bethan Keen from the British Theatre Academy, which now also sponsors the awards, sang One Perfect Moment from Bring It On The Musical. Written by a crack team including Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton), the Broadway musical will receive its UK premiere care of The BTA in The Large at Southwark Playhouse from 2 August 2018.
- Renée Lamb sang Catherine of Aragon’s anthem No Way from Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’ new British musical SIX, which sees the six wives of Henry VIII sing their way out of the history books and into the spotlight… from Tudor queens to pop princesses. A hit in Edinburgh, the concert-style musical has just completed six sell-out performances at the Arts Theatre. A full production will be announced soon.
Full list of winners
The Jack Tinker Award for Most Promising Newcomer (a tie)
Sheila Atim for Girl From the North Country
Old Vic & Noël Coward Theatres, London
John McCrea for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Sheffield Crucible & Apollo Theatre, London
The Trewin Award for Best Shakespearean Performance
Andrew Scott in Hamlet
Almeida & Harold Pinter Theatres, London
Most Promising Playwright
Brandon Jacob-Jenkins for An Octoroon at Orange Tree Theatre & Gloria at Hampstead Theatre, London
The Peter Hepple Award for Best Musical
Victoria Palace Theatre, London
Vicki Mortimer for Follies
National Theatre, London
Dominic Cooke for Follies
National Theatre, London
Victoria Hamilton for Albion
Almeida Theatre, London
Bryan Cranston for Network
National Theatre, London
Best New Play
The Ferryman by Jez Butterworth
Royal Court & Gielgud Theatres, London
David Lan for services to theatre