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Bat Out of Hell, 42nd St & Everybody’s Talking About Jamie all won at the 2018 WhatsOnStage Awards – The Ferryman won too, obviously.

The winners of the 18th Annual WhatsOnStage Awards were announced this evening, celebrating the best of UK theatre.

In a move that some people are referring to as a real wake-up call for the industry, oft-ignored award winner Sonia Friedman Productions ‘scooped’ seven ‘gongs’ including Best New Play for The Ferryman (James Graham’s Ink was robbed), Best Direction for Sam Mendes, Best Supporting Actor in a Play went to Fra Fee and Best Play Revival Award went to Robert Icke’s Hamlet. The Harry Potter play: Cursed Child won two awards as well.

Friedman herself walked off with the Equity Award for Services to Theatre Award, which is nice.

Other winners included Lucie Shorthouse who scooped the Best Supporting Actress in a Musical for Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, Sunset Boulevard won the Best Regional Production Award and Hair which took the Best Off-West End Production Award.

Sadly, The Band didn’t win Best New Musical – that went to Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. The awards are the only major theatre prizes to be voted for entirely by the audience, which explains everything.

You can see the full list of winners below if you like

BEST ACTOR IN A PLAY SPONSORED BY RADISSON BLU EDWARDIAN                              • David Tennant, Don Juan in Soho

BEST ACTRESS IN A PLAY • Olivia Colman, Mosquitoes

BEST ACTOR IN A MUSICAL SPONSORED BY THE UMBRELLA ROOMS                               • John McCrea, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

BEST ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL SPONSORED BY 100 WARDOUR ST                                      • Carrie Hope Fletcher, The Addams Family

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A PLAY                                                                                           • Fra Fee, The Ferryman

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A PLAY SPONSORED BY TONIC THEATRE                     • Juliet Stevenson, Hamlet

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A MUSICAL • Ross Noble, Young Frankenstein

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS IN A MUSICAL SPONSORED BY NEWMAN DISPLAYS        • Lucie Shorthouse, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

BEST NEW PLAY SPONSORED BY JHI MARKETINGThe Ferryman

BEST NEW MUSICAL SPONSORED BY SHINE CREATIVE SOLUTIONS                                   • Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

BEST PLAY REVIVALHamlet

BEST MUSICAL REVIVAL SPONSORED BY R&H THEATRICALS42nd Street

BEST DIRECTION • Sam Mendes, The Ferryman

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY • Randy Skinner, 42nd Street

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN SPONSORED BY WHITE LIGHT
• Patrick Woodroffe, Bat Out of Hell

BEST VIDEO DESIGN SPONSORED BY PRG XL VIDEO • 59 Productions, An American in Paris

BEST COSTUME DESIGN
• Roger Kirk, 42nd Street

BEST OFF-WEST END PRODUCTION SPONSORED BY LES MISERABLESHair

BEST REGIONAL PRODUCTION SPONSORED BY MTI EUROPESunset Boulevard

BEST ORIGINAL CAST RECORDING SPONSORED BY ENCORE RADIOLes Miserables

BEST SHOW POSTERHarry Potter and the Cursed Child

BEST WEST END SHOW SPONSORED BY JOE ALLENHarry Potter and the Cursed Child

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Director, Adam Lenson: “I’m all about musicals that push boundaries. Music is such an important tool for change.”

Director Adam Lenson is all about expanding the form of musical theatre.I believe the new British musical is going through a good time. But I also think it’s important to do bold and experimental musicals as well,” he tells me cheerfully.

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Director Adam Lenson in rehearsals.

“I’m all about musicals that push boundaries. Music is such an important tool for change,” he says.

Lenson has tackled Ryan Scott Oliver’s 35MM: A Musical Exhibition’ at The Other Palace his fourth musical in six months – a song cycle that is inspired by Broadway photographer Matthew Murphy’s photos. The show contains 15 songs based on 15 photographs. The show cleverly weaves a musical together thematically. So why 35 MM? “I tend to seek out work that is a little bit more complicated and thoughtful or maybe difficult,” he pauses. “I think people think of musicals as fun or accessible and easy; I tend to look for projects that have a little bit of friction, whether its intricacy or what is traditional.”

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35 MM: A Musical Exhibition at The Other Palace, Studio.

“With 35 MM, there are no rules. Just songs. Ryan has actively set out to make a piece that is a challenge for a director – you have a choice – I’ve always aspired to stage work that is unusual. As the director, I’ve tried to give location and identity to each of the songs so there is cumulative power to the songs.”

For Lenson, who has spent several years building his profile through the traditional path of assistant director roles and making projects happen, the changes have been gradual. “Directing is a job made up of a lot of skill and a lot of things: managing actors, working efficiently with a technical team, bringing people together to make a piece of integrated work,” he says.

“I assisted for a long time which I think was a huge benefit. I got to nick the bits of really good directors I like and bend them in a shape that works for me John Doyle’s expressionistic style I had always aspired to find my work. I worked a lot with Terry Johnson and he is a forensic playwright. I discovered a lot about text and caring about acting through choreograph expressionism. The biggest challenge is showing people that you can direct, lately I’ve been trying to make my own work rather than waiting around to be offered it.”

It’s no real shock that Adam has found a home at the new musical venue, The Other Palace. Lenson believes that the venue has a big part to play in the continuing revolution driving new and experimental musicals. “It’s probably no surprise that I’ve ended up working there!” He laughs.

“I believe the new British musical is going through a good time. But I also think it’s important to do bold but experimental musicals as well. The exciting thing for me about The Other Palace is it is an establishment sign of a growing commitment to developing new musicals.”

How does he manage his workload when thinking about his next wave of jobs?My brother is a management consultant, he often likens it to re-fuelling the plane while flying it,” he says drily. “I’m just constantly suggesting things to people and meeting people from all disciplines: writers, producers and actors, until I have the right combination of things.”

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35 MM: A MUSICAL EXHIBITION is at The Other Palace, London, until 30 September.