The 35th annual Laurence Olivier Awards are to be held tonight, Sunday 13 March 2011, at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London.

Organised by the Society of London Theatre, the awards are the most popular and important in the British theatre calendar. This year they are set for an overhaul, with MasterCard sponsoring the event, and a glitzy ceremony planned for the Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

The awards will feature full red carpet arrivals and star-studded ceremony that will be hosted by musical theatre star and TV and radio presenter  Michael Ball, and award-winning actress Imelda Staunton.

Star presenters handing out Olivier gongs will include Lost star Matthew Fox, opera tenor Alfie Boe, stars of Frankenstein Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller, Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss, Rupert Everett, Amanda Holden and Elaine Paige. Musical performances will include Barry Manilow and Kerry Ellis.

The awards will be covered extensively by the BBC on television, radio and online – including full red carpet coverage of stars arriving for the awards. A live broadcast of the ceremony will be played out via the BBC’s red button service (digital, cable or satellite viewers only), and also Paul Gambaccini will host Radio 2’s live coverage of the night, along with Jodie Prenger who will cover the red carpet arrivals. Plus BBC News will have special live coverage of the red carpet arrivals, and a post-awards reaction programme presented by Jane Hill and BBC Arts Editor Will Gompertz. Also highlights of the awards will be available on BBC iplayer the following week.

This year’s Olivier Awards nominations are lead by Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Love Never Dies with 7 nominations and Thea Sharrock’s National Theatre production of Terence Rattigan’s After The Dance with 6 nominations, including best director for Sharrock and best actress for Nancy Carroll.

The National Theatre has 17 nominations in total, including nods for Fela!, Hamlet, Beauty And The Beast, The White Guard, Earthquakes In London and London Assurance. The Royal Court and the Donmar Warehouse have nine nominations each. The Royal Court’s Clybourne Park has 4 nominations including best play, and has recently enjoyed success at a number of awards including the South Bank Sky Arts Awards.

Also tipped for awards are End Of The Rainbow, with 4 nominations including best actress for Tracie Bennett, and Legally Blonde The Musical, with 5 nominations including best actress in a musical for Sheridan Smith. Other nominees for best actress in the musical category include Sierra Boggess for Love Never Dies, Love Story’s Emma Williams and Elena Roger for Passion at the Donmar.

Mark Rylance is nominated for a best actor award for his performance in La Bete, alongside Derek Jacobi, David Suchet, Rory Kinnear and Roger Allam. And in the musical category, Ramin Karimloo has a nod for Love Never Dies, joined by Legally Blonde’s Alex Gaumond, David Thaxton for Passion, Sahr Ngaujah for Fela! and Love Story’s Michael Xavier.

In the Olivier Audience Award category, four shows have been up for public vote: Billy Elliot the MusicalJersey BoyLes Misérables and We Will Rock You. Also at the awards, Stephen Sondheim will receive the Society of London Theatre’s Special Award for his outstanding contribution to theatre.

The UK’s most prestigious theatre awards started in 1976 as The Society of West End Theatre Awards, becoming the Laurence Olivier Awards in 1984.

LINKS

Olivier Awards microsite

Olivier Awards – nominations

Olivier Awards – news