BroadwayWorld's Olivier Awards 2024 Predictions

The awards will be held at the Royal Albert Hall on 14 April

By: Apr. 10, 2024
BroadwayWorld's Olivier Awards 2024 Predictions
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The 2024 Olivier Awards are fast approaching on April 14. Ahead of one of the most exciting nights in theatreland, our critics – Aliya Al-Hassan, Mica Blackwell, Alexander Cohen, Katie Kirkpatrick, Kat Mokrynski, Gary Naylor, Kerrie Nicholson, Matthew Paluch and Christiana Rose- share their thoughts about who and what will triumph on the night, as well as who should win each category.

BroadwayWorld's Olivier Awards 2024 Predictions
Accidental Death Of An Anarchist
Photo credit: Helen Murray

Noël Coward award for best new entertainment or comedy play

Alexander Cohen: It feels odd to consider the Daniel Raggett revival of Dario Fo and Franca Rame’s Accidental Death of an Anarchist a comedy. Sure, it was very funny, spearheaded by a mesmerising turn by a hilarious Daniel Rigby. But audiences walked out the breathless, not from laughing too hard, but from being punched in the guts by the productions’ iron fisted critique of police corruption. Permit me to pretentiously quote philosopher Walter Benjamin: “There's no better trigger for thinking than laughter.”

As for the others, Stranger Things: The First Shadow is the only other show that could steal this. Old Friends was a sentimental tribute to Stephen Sondheim, but not much more. As for Vardy V Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial, I still can’t believe it even existed.

Best family show

Christiana Rose: The theatrical adaptation of the Emmy Award-winning children’s television series Bluey’s Big Play received mixed reviews, but was admired for its giant puppets, complex themes of sibling responsibility and power dynamic. The upbeat, humorous, and ‘wackadoo’ touring show, brought joy at every turn with Aussie humour, shriek-inducing child rave sequences of Chattermax, and ultimately upped the value by recognising the big issues in family life. An excellent family show deserving of acknowledgement with an expectation to unworthily fly under the radar.

The Smeds and The Smoos was received joyfully, credited for showcasing how children’s theatre can be performed beautifully. The imaginative adaptation of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s book for the stage is vibrant, playful, funny and engaging. Reviews were overwhelmingly jolly and were charmed by the tale of inclusivity, love overcoming barriers and acceptance. A wonderful show worthy of credit, which I hope does well.

BroadwayWorld's Olivier Awards 2024 Predictions
The cast of Sunset Boulevard
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

Gillian Lynne award for best theatre choreographer

Gary Naylor: Having marvelled at Joseph Fiennes pitch perfect evocation of Gareth Southgate in Dear England, I sat, a little smugly, waiting for the drama school grads to spoil the whole shooting match by pretending to be footballers. After all, sport translates very poorly to stage or screen - even when actual sports stars are performing!

But Ellen Kane and Hannes Langolf's movement direction solves all those problems. They capture the nervous energy of the footballer (I've seen it up close and personal hundreds of times) and add a critical layer of verisimilitude to the production. Disbelief remained suspended and parody swerved. Back of the net! 

Best costume design

  • Bunny Christie and Deborah Andrews for Guys & Dolls at the Bridge Theatre
  • Ryan Dawson Laight for La Cage Aux Folles at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
  • Hugh Durrant for Peter Pan at The London Palladium
  • Marg Horwell for The Picture of Dorian Gray at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

Aliya Al-Hassan: A tricky category to call: Ryan Dawson Laight brought fun and sparkle in La Cage Aux Folles, Bunny Christie and Deborah Andrews’ costumes for Guys & Dolls are immaculate in both concept and execution and Hugh Durrant clearly had a ball designing for Peter Pan.

However, for me Marg Horwell pips it for the sheer feat of imagination that is The Picture Of Dorian Gray. Horwell (who also is the scenic designer) has given an enormous amount of thought to the visual feast on stage. The brilliant Sarah Snook plays every role in this production and, in addition to her truly brilliant performance, the costumes are key to defining those characters. From the paired back palazzo pants and white shirt at the start which become increasingly elaborate, so we end up with a fever dream of an overtly camp Elvis complete with multi-coloured ruff, laced corset and huge sleeves adorned with flowers.

Cleverly, the plain costuming at the start is a deliberate ploy to hold our attention as it morphs and develops into something completely over the top by the end. The slick transitions and choreography of the costume changes are so cleverly done: it is a method of storytelling in itself and that is why is it so impressive. 

Unusual Rigging Award for Outstanding Achievement in Affiliate Theatre

  • Blue Mist by Mohamed-Zain Dada at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at The Royal Court Theatre
  • A Playlist for The Revolution by AJ Yi at the Bush Theatre
  • Sleepova by Matilda Feyişayo at the Bush Theatre
  • The Swell by Isley Lynn at the Orange Tree Theatre
  • The Time Machine: A Comedy by Steven Canny and John Nicholson at the Park Theatre

Katie Kirkpatrick: The Bush Theatre have gone from strength to strength recently, winning this award for the previous two years. It seems like their reign will continue this year, with nominations for two shows which were both big critical successes. Sleepova managed to hit the perfect balance between creative, ambitious new theatre, and entertaining storytelling that’s hugely watchable. With its cast continuing to find success – Amber Grappy has since starred in One Day – this lovable play seems destined for a win. Personally, I would love to see The Swell win the day – memorable and unexpected, the show demonstrated some really fantastic writing and directing, using the Orange Tree’s in-the-round space really cleverly. 

BroadwayWorld's Olivier Awards 2024 Predictions
The Effect at The National Theatre
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

Cunard Best Revival   

Alexander Cohen: What the secret sauce that makes a good revival? It’s something deeper than meaty performances and direction. A good revival reveals something about the play itself: it wasn’t just good then, but speaks to us now as much as when it premiered.

Whilst all the nominations were critical darlings, my money isn’t on Shirley Valentine or VANYA. Both productions were less about the beating heart of the plays themselves are more about being vehicles for the central performances to drive at full throttle – and both Sheridan Smith and Andrew Scott have been deservedly recognised with acting nominations.

Jamie Lloyd’s The Effect did something rare. His hypothesis was that Prebble’s play was a theatrical prophecy that has only now been fulfilled in the age of social media, algorithms and cookies. I wrote in my review: “Apps know us better than we know ourselves and the mental health epidemic is worse than ever. Eleven years ago The Effect was once prophetic. Now it is just life.” For that reason it has my vote.

Best musical revival

Aliya Al-Hassan: Despite my being in raptures about both Groundhog Day and Guys & Dolls, Sunset Boulevard has to take this award. Jamie Lloyd’s stark and incredibly intimate re-imagining of this musical combined incredible technical prowess with raw theatricality.

Audiences were spoilt by career-defining performances by both Nicole Scherzinger and Rachel Tucker. Scherzinger was a surprising, but devastatingly successful choice; she exposed herself utterly in a vulnerable and totally committed performance. Tucker was predictably astonishing.

The staging and performances are not in question, but what also made this musical stand out were the subtle changes made to Andrew Lloyd Webber’s score, including the sensible removal of “The Lady’s Paying”. “As If We Never Said Goodbye” showed breathtaking vocal ability and “With One Look” (sung as the original version was by Patti LuPone) were just sensational from both leading ladies. Lloyd Webber always gives several opportunities to really show off and the pair attacked the challenge of these songs. I might hop over the pond just to see it again when it transfers to Broadway. 

BroadwayWorld's Olivier Awards 2024 Predictions
Macbeth at The Donmar Warehouse
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

Best sound design

Alexander Cohen: Another two-horse race here. Paul Arditti’s work on Stranger Things: The First Shadow is the lungs that breathe life into the onstage world of Hawkins. But it was Gareth Fry who really turned things upside down with his sexily innovative take on Macbeth. Each audience member was armed with headphones garnering an unusually intimate and spine-chilling experience. It’s not the first time a show has employed such aural trickery to slice straight into its audiences nervous system (hello Simon McBurney’s The Encounter), but it is the first time the bard has had such a technological treatment. Gimmick or not, the show was a sellout (but that might be more to do with some savvy casting choices). 

Outstanding musical contribution

  • Tom Brady for musical supervision and arrangements and Charlie Rosen for orchestrations for Guys & Dolls at the Bridge Theatre
  • Matt Brind for musical supervision, arrangements and orchestrations for Just for One Day at The Old Vic
  • Steve Sidwell for orchestrations and Joe Bunker for musical direction for Operation Mincemeat at the Fortune Theatre
  • Alan Williams for musical supervision and musical direction for Sunset Boulevard at the Savoy Theatre

Aliya Al-Hassan: I never rated Sunset Boulevard as one of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s best works, but Alan Williams’ tweaking of the score paid off in spades, making it sounds fresher and more modern while retaining the original composition. This worked particularly well as a juxtaposition against Jamie Lloyd’s very stark and innovative staging.

It helped that Williams had seventeen incredible musicians to contribute to the hugely dynamic execution of the big, sweeping numbers such as “With One Look”, with particularly clever use of the brass section to really dig into those moments where the audience feels truly swept along by the music. Many people contributed to the success of the show, but Williams is something of an unsung hero for imprinting this score on the minds of a new generation. 

BroadwayWorld's Olivier Awards 2024 Predictions
Will Close in Dear England
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Alexander Cohen: Will Close was excellent, not just capturing Harry Kane’s monotone vocal idiosyncrasies down to a tee, but digging deep to find the England Captain’s vulnerability beneath the footballing bravado.

Paul Hilton is a brilliant performer but his nomination for a somewhat Vaudvillian turn in the all-sizzle-no-sausage An Enemy of the People revival ignore his utterly enthralling performance as Father Manders in Joe Hill Gibbons’ Ghosts revival at the Globe. Equally sexy and skin curling he delivered the psycho and the sexual to Ibsen’s psychosexual melodrama.

But my prediction goes to the gloriously magnetic Giles Terra. His Montrellous, the wizard-like mentor to the rag tag former convicts-turned-chefs in Clyde’s was the cornerstone of the production; without him the show would have crumbled. But would a win for him go any way in vindicating Linton’s lack of a direction nomination? 

Best actress in a supporting role

Mica Blackwell: Lorraine Ashbourne was easily my standout in a scene-stealing performance as Aunty Carol in Till The Stars Come Down. Making incredulously outdated remarks one minute and drunkenly dancing to Britney Spears’ "Toxic" the next, Ashbourne finds nuance and humanity in what could have easily been a caricature as she plays mother figure to the three sisters who lead the piece. 

BroadwayWorld's Olivier Awards 2024 Predictions
Stranger Things: The First Shadow
Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

Best set design

Alexander Cohen: I’ve been thinking about this for a while. I have no idea who will win. A boring answer from me I know. But it’s true.

I’m fascinated by how dynamism within each design took centre stage: Miriam Buether’s Hawkins, locations shimmering in and out, back and forth, with a cooly cinematic glean. Bunny Christie’s New York, with platforms rotating up and shrewdly channelling its audience around the mean streets.

Es Devlin’s Set Design and Ash J Woodward’s Video Design for Dear England garners a different sort of vitality, that of the rush and pulse pounding ecstasy of sport whilst Soutra Gilmour’s Set Design and Nathan Amzi and Joe Ransoms’ Video Design for Sunset Boulevard seamlessly synthesised video and stage.

If you held a gun to my head, I would go with Buether. She overcame the added challenge of translating Hawkin’s breezy Americana from screen to stage. And she did it brilliantly. 

Best lighting design

Aliya Al-Hassan: This award has some great nominations, but the award must go to Paule Constable for Guys & Dolls at the Bridge Theatre. The logistics required to light a production taking place in a space where the set and audience are in constant motion is mind-blowing.

The lighting itself is a feat of genius; evoking the 50’s period feel with all the brilliant neon signs and dark street corners, while bringing a modern twist of incredible acid colours and brightness. This is a show where the narrative is very much driven by the lighting, telling the audience where to go and where to look next. Constable (and her perfectly considered lighting) is the mastermind behind so much in this wonderful show; it simply would not work without her contribution. 

BroadwayWorld's Olivier Awards 2024 Predictions
Amy Trigg in The Little Big Things
Photo Credit: Pamela Raith Photography

Best actress in a supporting role in a musical

Kerrie Nicholson: As a disabled person who loves this industry with all my heart but sometimes doesn’t feel welcome, I can’t begin to express how important The Little Big Things was, both personally and in terms of the wider industry in terms of disability representation. So, I couldn’t give my vote to anyone else in this category other than Amy Trigg, who played Henry’s sassy, straight talking physiotherapist Agnes. 

Something I hear a lot when it comes to representation is “oh I wish that character had been around when…” and I had this with Agnes – she represents everything I wish I could be more of as a disabled woman: more outspoken, more resilient and more at peace with myself. Joe White’s writing has given Agnes some absolute comedy gems that had me belly laughing, but also some really provocative monologues that spoke so loudly to my own experiences that I was nodding every time she spoke, or resisting the urge to cheer. Then, give these words to Amy, whose coming timing is whip sharp and who exudes warmth, charm and absolutely infectious energy, then you have a character who feels so real and vibrant that she stole every scene she was in.

Seeing a fellow wheelchair user onstage playing a character who was given more depth than their disability being their only defining factor was so refreshing and important, and I hope Amy continues to be a presence in my theatregoing life as I, and other audiences will be all the richer for her. 

Best actor in a supporting role in a musical

Kat Mokrynski: Having seen the performances of all of the nominees for Best Actor in a Supporting Role In a Musical and loved all of them, I have certainly given myself a challenge in choosing who I believe will/should win! But I simply have to go with Jak Malone's performance in Operation Mincemeat, which includes the slimy Bernard Spilsbury, the solemn Captain Jewell, the patriot Willie Watkins and, most importantly, the heartbreaking Hester Leggett.

Malone is a marvel to witness as the MI5 secretary and brings the audience to tears in singing "Dear Bill," arguably Operation Mincemeat's best song. Malone shows off talent and range that cannot be seen in any other show on the West End. May fortune favour Jak! 

BroadwayWorld's Olivier Awards 2024 Predictions
The Rhinegold at the London Coliseum
Photo Credit: Marc Brenner

Best new opera production

  • Blue by the English National Opera at the London Coliseum
  • Innocence by the Royal Opera at the Royal Opera House
  • Picture a Day Like This by the Royal Opera at the Royal Opera House – Linbury Theatre
  • The Rhinegold by the English National Opera at the London Coliseum

Alexander Cohen: The UK premiere of Kaija Saariaho’s Innocence was equal parts coruscating and harrowing, a whirlwind of grief and terror mapping the emotional topography of a school shooting. Jeanine Tesori’s Blue explored similar devastating territory: the intersection of race, family, and duty for a black policeman in America.  

And while George Benjamin and Martin Crimps’ Picture A Day Like This will linger long in my imagination, my bet is on Richard JonesThe Rhinegold. Glimmering in full technicolour radiance after a somewhat iffy start to the ENO’s Ring Cycle, it’s a tragic shame that the rest of Jones’ Ring Cycle will go incomplete as the ENO faces its own Götterdämmerung.

Outstanding achievement in opera

  • Antonio Pappano for his role as Musical Director of the Royal Opera House
  • Belarus Free Theatre Company for King Stakh’s Wild Hunt at the Barbican Theatre
  • Marina Abramović for her concept and design of 7 Deaths of Maria Callas at the London Coliseum

Alexander Cohen: This one is a no brainer. No, like, seriously.

Antonio Pappano has dedicated 22 glorious years of service to the Royal Opera House as its music director. Marina Abramović lay in bed for a few nights while some sopranos covered some of Callas’ iconic roles and arias, one of which she didn’t even perform on stage.

For those who didn’t catch The 7 Deaths Of Maria Callas it was a sort of jukebox opera and a bit of a waste of time. There was no attempt to explore Callas’ humanity, rather just resuscitate some of her diva stardust to dust over Abramović. I realised, sat there slightly bored, that Abramović is more celebrity artist than artistic celebrity. Marina. If you’re reading this, save it for the art world. 

It's not the end of the road for Pappano. He will go on to take the reins as Chief Conductor of the LSO in September. His firebrand intelligence, and technical wizardry will be sorely missed in Covent Garden.

Best actor in a musical

Mica Blackwell: This may sound controversial, but I think it’s time that Charlie Stemp gets his flowers for his spectacular performance as Bobby Childs. Already proving himself as one of the West End’s biggest triple threats in Olivier-nominated performances for Half A Sixpence and Mary Poppins, Crazy For You showcased his talents on a whole other level. Had I not known it was a revival prior to going into the musical, I would’ve believed Crazy For You was built around his strengths.  

BroadwayWorld's Olivier Awards 2024 Predictions
Marisha Wallace in Guys & Dolls
Photo Credit: Manuel Harlan

Best actress in a musical

Kerrie Nicholson: Given the buzz around her casting and the production itself, I’ve no doubt in my mind that Nicole Scherzinger will walk away with the accolade, but I’m throwing my hat wholeheartedly behind Marisha Wallace for her turn as Adelaide in Guys & Dolls.

I’ve a soft spot for the show itself and have seen it many times over the years, and in my experience the character is often played purely for comedy. There’s nothing wrong with that approach and interpretation by any means, but I found myself wondering why the character wasn’t given more to explore, and lo: enter Marisha. She took Adelaide to places I didn’t know the character could go, with more sass and a gritty, tenacious spirit that I absolutely adored. This made her moments of vulnerability and comedy more palpable and endearing to me, because Adelaide felt more rounded in Marisha’s hands. Of course, that’s not forgetting her absolute powerhouse of a vocal… she always had the audiences I’d been in during her time with the show in absolute rapturous, thunderous applause after her songs.

I was blessed to see her play Adelaide opposite both Daniel Mays and Owain Arthur as Nathan, and it was a joy to watch how Marisha would react to their different choices and style too, often in really subtle yet striking ways that meant I was always welcome to discover new facets in the character, and I love being kept on my toes like that as an audience member. To quote my sentiments from both trips: “It is Marisha’s (and Cedric Neal’s) world… I am merely blessed to live in it!’.

Outstanding achievement in dance

  • Isabela Coracy for her performance in NINA: By Whatever Means, part of Ballet Black: Pioneers at the Barbican Theatre
  • Jonzi D for his artistic direction of Breakin’ Convention 2023 International festival of hip-hop Dance theatre at Sadler’s Wells
  • Rhiannon Faith for her community focused conception of Lay Down Your Burdens at The Pit at Barbican

Matthew Paluch: When it comes to this category there's zero humming and harring in my world. Categorically Isabela Coracy for her performance in NINA: By Whatever Means is the irrefutable front runner.

I'm lucky enough to see a lot of theatre, but performances like Coracy's don't come along very often. Of course, one can't underestimate the roles that both Simone herself, and Mthuthuzeli November as the choreographer played in this outstanding moment. But to quote myself if I may "Coracy isn't performing, she's channelling. And it's quite something to behold; to witness a dancer so involved with characterisation that they start to manifest, as opposed to simply playing a role" - 'twas a privilege to observe. 

Best actress

Aliya Al-Hassan: I was completely charmed by Sheridan Smith’s Shirley Valentine last year; she has an innate connection to an audience that is both beguiling and addictive to watch. West End first-timer, Sarah Snook, was superbly versatile and perfectly positioned as she took on every character for endlessly inventive The Picture of Dorian Gray.

My pick, however, is the mesmeric Sophie Okonedo as Medea @sohoplace. Okonedo cleverly gave the character so many fascinating layers; she was wounded as well as murderous, a victim as well as a villain. This was Okonedo’s first stage performance for four years and, boy, was it worth the wait. A highly nuanced, raw and terribly beautiful performance. 

BroadwayWorld's Olivier Awards 2024 Predictions
Dear England
Photo Credit: Mark Brenner

Sir Peter Hall Award for Best Director     

Alexander Cohen: Why do the Oliviers judges seem to go slack-jawed and wide-eyed at the slightest hint of spectacle? Stoners in the midst of narcosis are less easily impressed by flashing lights and loud noises. Stop being rude. I’m not saying any of the nominated directors are undeserving of nominations. It’s just that there’s is more to good direction than knowing when things should go crash, bang and wallop.

Stephen Daldry and Justin Martin are slaves to the extravaganza of their production – brilliant though they are in bringing the world to life, I just can’t escape the feeling that they are middlemen between audiences hoovering up lore and Netflix hoovering up money.

My bet is on Goold. He weaves the whiplash brilliance of Graham’s lucid writing with Es Devlin’s spectacular set pieces with the brilliant warmth of an ensemble cast. There is a lot of spectacle and theatrical wizardry but Goold’s Dear England orbited the warm empathy, humility, and humanity of its team, both on and off stage. Without that heart it would never have gone into extra time in the form of a West End transfer.

It would be remiss of me not to criticise the frustrating lack of diversity here though. Nothing for Lynette Linton’s Clyde’s or Yaël Farber’s King Lear – two productions not propped up pageantry by razor-edged performances and laser focus vision.

Best actor

Aliya Al-Hassan: Andrew Scott and David Tennant deserve plaudits for their performances in VANYA and Macbeth respectively. Joseph Fiennes was warm and hugely likable as Gareth Southgate in Dear England and James Norton took on huge emotional resonance in A Little Life.

However, Mark Gatiss was simply magnetic as Sir John Gielgud in Jack Thorne’s The Motive and the Cue, pulling off what must be a career-best performance. Yes, he captured the sound and poise of the man, but his performance went far beyond simple impersonation. Gatiss made him a fully fleshed-out human being, full of contradictions, doubts and foibles; it would be a crime if Gatiss did not win this category. 

Best new play

Mica Blackwell: There’s no denying that this season has been a strong one for The National Theatre, and there’s even healthy competition over which play could win the award within this category.

My personal prediction would have to be Dear England. Bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase “theatre performers are athletes” the dream team that is James Graham and Rupert Goold have scored another winning goal as they find soul and heart documenting the struggles and successes of the England football team under Gareth Southgate’s management. With a phenomenal ensemble cast led by Joseph Fiennes, they capture the spirit of their real life counterparts (often uncannily) without feeling like imitations. 

BroadwayWorld's Olivier Awards 2024 Predictions
Operation Mincemeat
Photo Credit: Matt Crockett

Best new musical

Katie Kirkpatrick: From its humble roots at New Diorama, Operation Mincemeat has become ‘the little show that could’, earning a never ending stream of five stars reviews. It would be great to see it win: for one, it’s a rare success story of original British musical theatre that’s found its audience through reviews and word of mouth, extending and transferring time after time until it found its West End home. It would also be a nice continuation of Standing at the Sky’s Edge’s 2023 win.

Next to Normal is perhaps the outlier in this category: despite only opening in London last year, the musical premiered on Broadway fifteen years ago. The Donmar’s sell-out production returns later this year, however, so it wouldn’t be that surprising to see it win. 

The Olivier Awards is at the Royal Albert Hall on 14 April;  TV highlights package will be broadcast on ITV1 at 10:10pm on the night.

Keep your eyes on BroadwayWorld UK's Instagram for green carpet coverage!

Main Image credit: Christie Goodwin


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