View From The Stalls: The WOS Awards Concert!
There's one thing you can guarantee at the Whatsonstage Awards - you'll have a really good laugh. As someone who saw the beautiful Love Story yesterday it was just what I needed from a trip to the theatre, though next year I'll volunteer to encourage everyone to their seats slightly earlier - there was no urgency to get everyone seated so most of Jill Halfpenny's show opening performance involved half the audience clambering over each other to sit down.
Whatsonstage have got these awards down to a fine art - they are so slick and most winners seem briefed to be, er, brief (Craig Revel Horwood sprinted on to that stage before the words "actor-musician musical" were out of Biggins' mouth) and the speeches were concise and funny with a few quite moving moments.
Also, these awards differ from others in that they don't introduce someone on stage to present each award - instead we had three fantastic turns in Biggins, Miranda Hart and Sheridan Smith and you never quite know what will come out of any of their mouths next! Miranda was hugely popular and made some very funny observations and impersonations about performers' bows and reaching for the moon and backing away at the end of a dance.
Anyone who isn't familiar with Ramin Karimloo certainly will be if they were in the audience tonight - he must have been on and off that stage four or five times, winning Best Actor for Love Never Dies and also joining the Les Mis 25th anniversary winning cast as well as performing in Act 2. Sheridan melted every time Ramin went near her and told us he should never wear a mask...or even anything else.
One of the nice things about these awards is you get to look back on a few performances from last year and also look ahead to new shows. Instead of seeing Michael Xavier perform something from Love Story we were treated to him being reunited with Simon Thomas as the princes in Into the Woods. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg looks very intriguing and their excerpt certainly made me want to go and see it. One of the biggest cheers of the night went to Caissie Levy who performed a moving song from Ghost The Musical. Along with a real mix of Sondheim, Rock of Ages, La Boheme and American Idiot, you could say there was something for everyone.
The audience really did seem very happy with their winners and gave huge support to everyone on stage. Rachel Tucker received two awards in a row - one for Wicked as best West End show and then her own for best takeover and told us about how important Wicked had been in her life for eight years; after they'd seen it on Broadway she swore to her mum and sister that she would get the role of Elphaba one day.
Zoe Wanamaker and David Suchet gave lovely speeches and David tried out Miranda's way of saying whatsonstage - WHATSONSTAGE? Joseph Millson, winning best supporting actor in a musical for Raoul in Love Never Dies, praised the hardworking ensemble seeing as they have been "in rehearsal for ten months". AnTony Jay and Jonathan Lynn sent a letter to be read out for winning Best New Comedy for Yes, Prime Minister and ended it by thanking the audience for not going along with whatsonstage critic Michael Coveney's review.
The only speech that wasn't concise raised one of biggest laughs - Tamsin Greig, who firstly told how she learnt to walk in high heels from Sheridan Smith (who spent the evening tottering on and off stage in ridiculous but gorgeous heels) and then asking Miranda why she hadn't been in her sitcom and then just enjoyed her moment up there for a while.
We were told we COULD use our phones during the show if we wanted to tweet but it's not great having phones flashing away in front of you and there were enough tweets coming through from WOS themselves that it would make better viewing to leave tweeting from the audience to the interval or pre- and post-show.
Finally, we thought we were about to get a preview of The Wizard of Oz after the interval but no, it was Biggins, in this year's frock giving us his Dorothy...
For a full list of winners, read it here - Groff, Smith and Karimloo win!