Winners were announced for the inaugural The Stage Debut Awards, recognising the best breakthrough actors and creatives in theatre, in a star-studded ceremony held last night (17 September 2017) at 8 Northumberland Avenue, London.
Bat Out of Hell star Andrew Polec won The Joe Allen Best West End Debut award, the only category to have the winner decided by public vote. Polec beat Star Wars‘ John Boyega, Glee‘s Amber Riley and more to take home the prize. Polec portrayed Strat in the Jim Steinman musical, which features songs made famous by Meat Loaf.
Andrew Polec originally planned a sports career, but after being involved in a cycling accident he decided to train as an actor. Polec has been with the production since its developmental stages in New York, which represented his first professional acting job. He also performed in the show during its run at the Manchester Opera House, before transferring to the West End. He is currently preparing to star in the North American premiere of Bat Out of Hell later this year.
Other winners come from across the country and include The Feeling’s Dan Gillespie Sells for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, ahead of its West End transfer to the Apollo Theatre. And Bruntwood Award-winning playwright Katherine Soper for Wish List at the Royal Exchange, Manchester.
The awards were hosted by actor and winner of ITV’s Superstar Ben Forster. Presenters at the awards included director of the National Theatre Rufus Norris, Olivier and Tony Award-winning director Michael Grandage, Olivier Award-winning actor Noma Dumezweni, Olivier Award-winning actor Sharon D Clarke, School of Rock actor Preeya Kalidas, and Olivier Award-winning actor Kenneth Cranham.
Alistair Smith, editor of The Stage and member of the judging panel, said:
“The Stage Debut Awards celebrate new theatre talent, shining the spotlight on the stars of tomorrow. Our list of nominees showcases a wealth of talent from across the UK, with winners recognised for work produced in Bristol, Chichester, London, Derby, Sheffield and Manchester. Congratulations to them all.”
“It will be great to watch these breakthrough stars become even better known, with many surely destined to become household names. Some are already being widely recognised – Dan Gillespie Sells is preparing for the West End transfer of his musical, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, and Miriam-Teak Lee will feature in the forthcoming West End production of Hamilton. We look forward to seeing our winners and nominees feature on Olivier, BAFTA and Oscar shortlists in future years.”
David Grindrod, The Stage Supports ambassador and casting director for Bat Out of Hell, said:
“Andrew stood out from the beginning. It was clear that he was the only actor capable of portraying Strat with the energy required to do justice to Jim Steinman’s music. It’s been fantastic watching him grow into the part and for this to be rewarded at The Stage Debut Awards. Congratulations to him and all the other winners.”
Winners in full
Best Actor in a Play
Abraham Popoola for Othello at Tobacco Factory Theatres, Bristol
Best Actress in a Play
Grace Molony for The Country Girls at the Minerva Theatre, Chichester
Best Actor in a Musical
Samuel Thomas for Allegro at Southwark Playhouse, London
Best Actress in a Musical
Miriam-Teak Lee for On the Town at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre, London
Lekan Lawal for Betrayal at Derby Theatre, Derby
Rosie Elnile for The Convert at the Gate Theatre, London
Dan Gillespie Sells for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie at the Crucible Theatre, Sheffield
Katherine Soper for Wish List at the Royal Exchange, Manchester
The Joe Allen Best West End Debut
Andrew Polec for Bat Out of Hell at the London Coliseum
The Stage Debut Awards ceremony also included a presentation for the Alan Bates Award for best drama school graduate. It was presented to Georgia Frost by The Actors Centre chairman Paul Clayton.
The Stage Debut Awards is the flagship event of The Stage Supports. The Stage Supports is a series of groundbreaking interventions launched by The Stage, all with one aim: to nurture on and off-stage talent in theatre and the performing arts. The Stage Supports includes The Stage Scholarships, which gives away more than £500,000 worth of drama training every year.