After the Dance, Legally Blonde lead UK play awards

LONDON Sun Mar 13, 2011 6:04pm EDT

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - A revival of Terence Rattigan's play "After the Dance" and an adaptation of hit movie "Legally Blonde" led the field Sunday at the Oliver Awards, Britain's top stage accolades.

After the Dance, which was staged at the National Theater in 2010, won the best revival prize at an awards ceremony in central London where U.S. entertainer Barry Manilow was among the performers.

The play, set in London, examines a group of socialites unable to leave behind their frivolous lives even as the country slides toward war.

It picked up the best actress prize for Nancy Carroll, best supporting actor for Adrian Scarborough and best costume design, all in the centenary year of Rattigan's birth.

The musical awards were dominated by "Legally Blonde - The Musical" based on the 2001 comedy starring Reese Witherspoon as a blonde sorority queen who turns her attentions to studying law after being dumped by her boyfriend.

The London stage production was honored in the best new musical category, Sheridan Smith was named best actress in a musical and Jill Halfpenny won the award for best performance in a supporting role in a musical.

Roger Allam won the best actor award for his portrayal of Falstaff in Shakespeare's "Henry IV: Parts 1 and 2" at the Globe theater. He beat off stiff competition from stage heavyweights Derek Jacobi, Rory Kinnear, Mark Rylance and David Suchet.

U.S. composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim received the Olivier Special Award, honoring the 80-year-old behind hit shows including "A Little Night Music" and "Sweeney Todd."

Previous recipients of the special prize include Alec Guinness, Judi Dench, Sam Mendes, Peter Hall and Laurence Olivier, after whom the awards are named.

The biggest surprise on the night was OperaUpClose's debut production of La Boheme, which originally played to 35 people in The Cock Tavern but went on to win the best new opera production category having beaten five international opera companies.

Following is a list of the winners in the main categories:

- Best actress: Nancy Carroll/After the Dance

- Best Actor: Roger Allam/Henry IV Parts 1 & 2

- Best actress in a supporting role: Michelle Terry/Tribes

- Best actor in a supporting role: Adrian Scarborough/After the Dance

- MasterCard best new play: Clybourne Park by Bruce Norris

- Best revival: After the Dance

- Best musical revival: Into the Woods

- Best new musical: Legally Blonde - The Musical

- Best entertainment: The Railway Children

- Best actress in a musical: Sheridan Smith/Legally Blonde - The Musical

- Best actor in a musical: David Thaxton/Passion

- Best performance in a supporting role in a musical: Jill Halfpenny/Legally Blonde - The Musical

- Best director: Howard Davies/The White Guard.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White; Editing by Matthew Jones)