19 February 2012 - Prince of Wales Theatre, London

The Awards winners were announced on Sunday 19 February, in the traditional glitzy, fabulous style that everyone comes to expect. There were some fantastic winners, with Matilda the Musical picking up four awards, One Man, Two Guvnors and Ghost winning three and Danny Boyle, Kerry Ellis and Alfie Boe all beating the nominees in their categories to collect an award.

War Horse knocked Wicked out of the Best West End Show award for the first time and they added to the National Theatre's total of seven awards.

I caught up with some of the winners backstage and there was a real buzz about the whole evening, with so many people emphasising how important the awards are as they are voted for by the public.
There were performances from Ghost and Crazy for You amongst others and the night was finished by a spectacular version of Defying Gravity by Kerry Ellis and Brian May, complete with sparkling confetti.

Brian was still buzzing from the performance when I spoke to him and he was so quick to praise Kerry on her Best Solo Performance award for their Anthems tour. "In a way it's a dream come true because I was always hoping Kerry would get this kind of recognition," he said with a really noticeable sense of pride for her. "10 years ago when she first came and auditioned for We Will Rock You I just thought: 'that girl is a star and maybe I can be a part of her getting to this place.' So now it's brilliant that everyone realises that she's amazing."

"I'm thrilled. I'm just a bit overwhelmed really. The shows were so important to me," Kerry said with a grin. "It was such an event, the Royal Albert Hall. It was one night of magic." One thing I had not expected to be discussing with her was her toilet, but apparently that is where her award will be going and where her others are kept. "It's like my little stagey heaven in the downstairs loo," she said as she laughed.

The pair were very excited to talk about their upcoming projects and first up is a trip to South Africa next month. "We're redoing Born Free for the Born Free foundation. Brian and I have recorded it," Kerry said excitedly. "We're going to make a documentary in South Africa to help save the lions and try and raise awareness."

"The new recording is very, very different," Brian added giving a few hints about what the track will be like. "It was quite easy listening and now it's kind of a rock song. It's very big and dramatic and brilliant for Kerry." Kerry and Brian hinted at more Anthems tour dates which will feature new songs from their second album - to include I (Who Have Nothing) - as well as a new musical in the pipeline for Kerry so watch this space! We will certainly be hearing more from them soon.

Tim Minchin picked up London Newcomer of the Year for Matilda the Musical and despite having arrived in the UK at 5.30 this morning after 34 hours travelling, he was thrilled with the awards the show received. "Any affirmation is good affirmation. One wants to be recognised by peers and the people in the industry but obviously audiences are important," Tim said. "The most important thing in theatre is that people go and see it. That's all that matters and I'm so proud about how broad Matilda's audience is."

He hinted slightly at what was to come: "I'm trying to write another musical. I've got lots of ideas," and Matilda's success has helped persuade him that he would want to write for the West End again. "I believe people on the West End can handle more intellectual content than perhaps we give them credit for. What Matilda does is never condescend to the audience."

Sticking with the love for new musicals, Ghost was another big winner, with Richard Fleeshman taking Best Actor in a Musical as well as Rob Howell winning Best Set Designer and Hugh Vanstone getting Best Lighting Designer for their work on the show. "I'm just starting out and this means the absolute world, it's amazing," said Richard, showing off his award proudly to me. "I'm waiting for someone to go 'We've made a terrible mistake'."

Along with his original Molly, Caissie Levy, Richard has recently moved to New York to open the show on Broadway and he assured me the award will be going with him to keep his spirits high. "In the darkest hours when I'm questioning every decision I make I can look at this and go: 'okay, some people somewhere think I'm doing something right'."

Mark Evans was collecting the award on behalf of Rob Howell and wanted to pass on Rob's message. "He was very, very grateful and wanted to thank everyone who was involved in both Ghost and Matilda because although we are collecting it for Ghost, it really is for both." Mark has just taken over from Richard in the role of Sam and he is loving the show. "It's what I think theatre is all about. You go there to escape the gloom and doom of reality and get taken on a journey. This is heartbreaking, it's genuine, it's so heartfelt and it's just a brilliant show."

One Man, Two Guvnors was yet another big winner that picked up three awards and I managed to have a quick chat with the writer, Richard Bean. "I just want to say a massive thank you very much to voters for enjoying the play and turning your computer on and clicking a mouse to vote because it's something I don't often do and I think I better start doing it," Richard said. "It's a nerve-wracking day but it's great."

War Horse knocked Wicked out of the Best West End Show this year and they were thrilled. "Over the last two years we thought we'd lost out on this award but it's nice to get it," said Kathryn Ind, the associate director. "We couldn't be more grateful for the fantastic audience we get. There'd be no point in doing it otherwise."

"It feels very good taking it from Wicked," said Jack Holden, who plays Albert. "I just want to say a huge thank you to the people who voted."

Straight from what he described as a 'short sabbatical' in films, Danny Boyle took Best Director for Frankenstein. "It's amazing to get this," he said. "I started in the theatre many many years ago and won nothing. But I'm not bitter, it just made me better." Despite having won numerous awards since for his films, Danny was still delighted that this one had been voted for by the public. "To the voters: thank you, I owe you one. If you see me in the street, come up and say hello."

Danny is directing the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics this year and he seems to be loving the challenge. "It's great. It's an enormous scale but it's live theatre. It's a one off and there's a huge audience but it is live theatre."

I managed to squeeze in a quick chat with Michael Ball before Sweeney Todd won their award for Best Regional Production. The cast are starting rehearsals for the West End production next week and Michael was hoping for the good result. "If I can go into rehearsals with it tomorrow morning that would be a brilliant boost," he said, emphasising how much an award from the public would mean. "There's no point in doing it without an audience. That's why we do it. They're brilliant. It's great that they support regional theatre as well as West End theatre like they do because it's so important."

Not forgetting the presenters, the evening was hosted by Sheridan Smith, Alan Davies and Jenny Eclair. I grabbed Jenny for a chat after she had finished and she really enjoyed the evening. "It was good fun," she said. "I'd quite like to have seen the show, but you were always hovering in the wings and getting in everyone's way so you had to go to the dressing room so it was like a radio play really! But everyone was fantastic, they all sounded great."

This was the third year I have been to the awards ceremony and they surpass themselves every time with true glittering, showbiz glamour. All the winners I spoke to were very humble and grateful for their awards and it is great to see such a broad range of the theatre community come together for the night.

Full list of 2012 Award winners:

Best Actress in a Play: Vanessa Redgrave – Driving Miss Daisy
Best Actor in a Play: James Corden – One Man, Two Guvnors
Best Supporting Actress in a Play: Catharine Tate – Season’s Greetings
Best Supporting Actor in a Play: Oliver Chris – One Man, Two Guvnors
The BABY GRAND Best Actress in a Musical: Amanda Holden – Shrek the Musical
The THEATRE TOKENS Best Actor in a Musical: Richard Fleeshman – Ghost the Musical
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical: Hannah Waddingham – The Wizard of Oz
Best Supporting Actor in a Musical: Nigel Harman – Shrek the Musical
The LES MISERABLES Best Ensemble Performance: London Road
The JO HUTCHINSON INTERNATIONAL Best Solo Performance: Kerry Ellis – Anthems
The SEATLIVE Best Takeover in a Role: Alfie Boe – Les Miserables
The NICK HERN BOOKS Best New Play: Three Days in May – by Ben Brown
The EMG Best New Comedy: One Man, Two Guvnors
The SEE TICKETS Best New Musical: Matilda the Musical – by Tim Minchin (music and lyrics) and Dennis Kelly (book)
The SAMUEL FRNECH Best Play Revival: Driving Miss Daisy
The RADISSON EDWARDIAN Best Musical Revival: The Wizard of Oz
The Best Shakespearean Production: Much Ado About Nothing (Wyndham’s)
The OAKLEY CAPITAL Best Director: Danny Boyle – Frankenstein
Best Set Designer: Rob Howell – Ghost the Musical
The WHITE LIGHT Best Lighting Designer: Hugh Vanstone – Ghost the Musical
Best Choreographer: Peter Darling – Matilda the Musical
The DEWYNTERS London Newcomer of the Year: Tim Minchin – Matilda the Musical
The TIME OUT Best Off-West End Production: The Rots ( Tricycle Theatre)
The LUCKINGS Best Regional Production: Sweeney Todd (Chichester Festival Theatre)
The EQUITY Best West End Show: War Horse
The AKA Theatre Event of the Year: David Tennant and Catherine Tate reuniting on stage in Much Ado About Nothing

Article and interviews by Louise Miles