Awards season has been in high gear for both Broadway and the West End this past week. On the evening of April 28, London hosted its 37th annual Olivier Awards, where top prizes in theater for this season were distributed. Just a day later, the list of the 2013 Drama Desk nominees were announced, followed the next day by the Tony nominees, setting the Broadway awards season in motion. While these events may seem worlds (or at least an ocean) apart, there is actually some heavy overlapping between them, giving both Broadway and the West End good cause to do some long-distance celebrating.
The two productions that racked up the most nods at yesterday's Tony Award nominations announcement both have origins across the pond. If we can remember back to 2005, Kinky Boots (this year's leader in Tony nods with a total of 13) was originally a British film. British pop singer Geoff Deane and English dramatist Tim Firth were the first to lend their creative minds (and pens) to the story before Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein. The British comedy-turned-Broadway smash also collected two Drama Desk Award nominations this past week for Outstanding Actor in a Musical (Billy Porter) and Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical (Annaleigh Ashford).
Matilda, coming in second place with 12 Tony nominations (and third in the Drama Desk tally with seven), is helmed by British director Matthew Warchus and boasts a book by British writer Dennis Kelly, both newly minted Tony and Drama Desk nominees. The musical began its life as a twelve-week tryout in Stratford, which then moved to the West End in November 2011. It went on to win a record-breaking seven 2012 Olivier Awards, including one for Best New Musical (perhaps foreshadowing Tony and Drama Desk events yet to come). Original West End cast members Lauren Ward (Miss Honey) and Bertie Carvel (who won an Olivier Award for his performance as Miss Trunchbull) have also been recognized by the Tony nominating committee, while Broadway's four Matildas (Sophia Gennusa, Oona Laurence, Bailey Ryon, and Milly Shapiro) have been awarded Tony Honors for Excellence in the Theatre for their performances.
British actor Tom Sturridge also received a Tony nomination for his leading role in the Lyle Kessler play Orphans, the production's only nomination besides Best Revival of a Play. Costume designer Soutra Gilmour also makes the list of British Tony nominees, receiving a nod for her work in Cyrano de Bergerac.
Meanwhile, American artists have been garnering recognition overseas. At the Olivier Awards on Sunday, several productions by American writers and composers walked away with big prizes. Top Hat, a new musical based on the 1935 Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers film (music and lyrics by American composer Irving Berlin), received awards for Best Theatre Choreographer (Bill Deamer), Best Costume Design (Jon Morrell), and Best New Musical. Sweeney Todd, the Stephen Sondheim musical that made its premiere on Broadway in 1979, matched Top Hat in receiving three major awards including Best Actor in a Musical (Michael Ball), Best Actress in a Musical (Imelda Staunton), and Best Musical Revival.
Composer Marvin Hamlisch's 1975 musical A Chorus Line also walked away with an award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Musical (Leigh Zimmerman) while American playwright Eugene O'Neill's classic drama Long Day's Journey Into Night received the major award for Best Revival.
As both New York and London continue to acknowledge the achievements of the respective cities' outstanding theater artists from this past year, one hopes that both will continue the tradition of show-sharing for many Broadway and West End seasons to come. It's always nice to have an excuse to celebrate in two time zones.