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Six take home points from the Olivier Awards 2016 launch

GYPSY
Johan Persson GYPSY by Sondheim, ; , Music - Stephen Sondheim, based on book by Arthur Laurents, Director - Jonathan Kent, Choreography - Stephen Mear, Designer - Anthony Ward, Lighting - Mark Henderson, The Savoy Theatre, London, 2015, Credit: Johan Persson

At a disconcertingly brief (11-minute!) launch event this afternoon, hosts Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton rattled through all 26 shortlists for the 2016 Olivier Awards – aka the biggest awards in the theatre calendar – with aplomb. Now that the dust has settled, here are some thoughts on the lists and what is likely to win at the Sunday April 3 awards ceremony.

1. Gypsy is probably going to dominate awards night

The Imelda Staunton-staring Sondheim revival has more nominations than anything else – eight – and looks virtually unstoppable in most categories bar best director (where Robert Icke will surely win for ‘Oresteia’). Indeed, one suspects the reason why Imelda Staunton isn’t due to co-host with Michael Ball on the night is that it would be a bit awkward given the amount of #winning she and ‘Gypsy’ will be doing.

2. If it doesn’t, nothing else will

‘Kinky Boots’ is hard on ‘Gypsy’s heels with seven nominations, but it’s not a show in the same league, though one of Matt Henry or Killian Donnelly is liable to get best male in a musical.

3. ‘Farinelli and the King’ did alright for itself

Mark Rylance may indeed be the best actor in the world but is it maybe a bit nuts that the somewhat diversionary ‘Farinelli and the King’ racked up exactly as many nominations as ‘Jerusalem’ did six years ago? Toss in four nominations for ‘Nell Gwynn’ and in fact the story of the awards seems to be Shakespeare’s Globe with ten nominations.

4. ‘Oppenheimer’ didn’t

Was it a question of opening too long ago? (Perhaps a fate that also befell ENO’s ‘Sweeney Todd’?) Or were critics the only people to actually like Tom Morton-Smith’s atomic bomb epic? The lack of nominations for ‘Oppenheimer’ in best play, best director and best actor (for John Heffernan) is pretty nuts, with Catherine Steadman’s best supporting actress nomination a bit of an empty gesture given she’ll almost certainly get stomped on by Judi Dench (for ‘The Winter’s Tale’).

5. It’s definitely more diverse than the Oscars, but not by loads

It’s hard not to look at any major awards shortlists in light of the #OscarsSoWhite backlash now. Nominations for Adrian Lester, Natalie Dew and Matt Henry put actors of colour in the spotlight, but elsewhere there’s not a huge amount of diversity. Part of the problem, one suspects, is the fact that since the Oliviers judging panel was stacked more towards West End producers a few years back, stuff that doesn’t go to the West End receives far fewer nominations. This year’s shortlists shut out Debbie Tucker-Green’s ‘Hang’, Noma Dumezweni’s turn in ‘Linda’, and Lucian Msamati for ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’, though at least ‘Ma Rainey’ got a nom for best revival.

6. It’s basically all a bit predictable (but that doesn’t mean good people won’t win)

Accepting a couple of glaring omissions and the West End bias, it’s a fairly reasonable set of lists. It would have been lovely to see ‘People, Places and Things’ or ‘Oresteia’ or ‘Hangmen’ dominating the proceedings in the way ‘The Curious Incident…’ did a few years back (or ‘Oppenheimer’, or the Young Vic’s ‘Bull’ or the Royal Court’s ‘Hang’ or ‘Escaped Alone’) but one optimistically imagines the ‘right’ winners – Denise Gough best actress for ‘PPT’, Robert Icke best director for ‘Oresteia’, Martin McDonagh best play for ‘Hangmen’ – will take home gongs on the night.

For the full list of nominees go to olivierawards.com

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