The Mountaintop and Hello, Dolly! win Laurence Olivier Awards

Reporter: Matthew Amer, first published Sun 21 Mar 2010 22:10

The Mountaintop has been named Best New Play at the 2010 Laurence Olivier Awards, triumphing over Enron, Jerusalem and Red.

Also just announced, the Open Air theatre production of classic musical Hello Dolly! has won Best Musical Revival.

The Mountaintop’s success is a departure from previous awards ceremonies this season; both the Evening Standard and Critics’ Circle Best New Play awards went to the Royal Court’s Jerusalem.

Katori Hall’s two-hander began life at Battersea’s Theatre503 before transferring on the back of strong reviews to Trafalgar Studios. Set the night before the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, it starred David Harewood as the famous civil rights leader and Lorraine Burroughs as the maid in his Memphis motel with whom he has an illuminating encounter.

Hello, Dolly!, whose star Samantha Spiro and choreographer Stephen Mear have already won Laurence Olivier Awards this evening, makes it a hat-trick by winning Best Musical Revival, fending off competition from Annie Get Your Gun, Oliver! and A Little Night Music.

Timothy Sheader’s production, which played to packed houses in Regent’s Park last summer, recreated the story of the meddlesome widow Dolly Levi, whose constant matchmaking gets herself and others in trouble.

Also in this part of the ceremony, playwright Tom Stoppard presented the Society of London Theatre’s Special Award – one of two this evening – to producer Michael Codron.

One of the West End’s most influential and prolific producers, Codron has enjoyed a career that spans more than 50 years, since his first production in 1956. Making a name for himself early on as a producer of new plays, Codron was responsible for discovering the work of Harold Pinter, whose first play, The Birthday Party, he premiered at the Lyric Hammersmith in 1958, and Joe Orton, whose Entertaining Mr Sloane and Loot he premiered in the 1960s.

Codron – who turns 80 this year – is also responsible for furthering the careers of playwrights including Michael Frayn, Simon Gray, Tom Stoppard, Alan Bennett, John Mortimer, Alan Ayckbourn, David Hare, Willy Russell, Terry Johnson and Patrick Marber, premiering many of their now famous works including Frayn’s Donkey’s Years (1976), Bennett’s Enjoy (1980), Gray’s Butley (1971), Stoppard’s The Real Thing (1982) and Christopher Hampton’s debut play When Did You Last See My Mother? in 1966, making Hampton the youngest playwright – at the time – ever to have a play produced in the West End.

Among the many actors he has worked with over the years, Codron’s frequent collaborators have included Kenneth Williams, Sheila Hancock, Michael Gambon, Maureen Lipman, Richard Briers, Felicity Kendal and Alec Guinness.