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Critics' Circle Awards 2017

Cameron Mackintosh and the cast of Hamilton. Photo by Peter Jones.

Theatre news

OPENING just before Christmas to rave reviews, the London version of the multi award-winning Broadway hit Hamilton has won its first major prize outside the USA – Best Musical at the 2017 Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards.

Earmarked by Cameron Mackintosh as the production to launch his multi-million-pound refurbishment of the Victoria Palace Theatre, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hip-hop flavoured show was one of 2017’s most eagerly anticipated West End premieres.

This first major British award – voted for by secret ballot by London’s top theatre critics – can be added to its 11 Tony Awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and Grammy for Best Musical Theatre Album.

Musicals dominated the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards ceremony, which took place on Tuesday, January 30, 2018 at the West End’s Prince of Wales Theatre, hosted by Critics’ Circle Drama Section Chairman Mark Shenton.

The spectacular staging of Stephen Sondheim’s legendary musical Follies in the Olivier at the National Theatre, with a cast of 37 and an orchestra of 21, saw Dominic Cooke named Best Director and Vicki Mortimer Best Designer.

Meanwhile, two stars of acclaimed new British musicals, Sheila Atim in Girl From the North Country and John McCrea in Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, were jointly named Best Newcomer.

American Bryan Cranston was named Best Actor for his performance as TV news anchorman Howard Beale in Network at the National Theatre.

Victoria Hamilton won Best Actress for her performance as Audrey Walters in Albion at the Almeida Theatre. It was her fourth Critics’ Circle Award (third for Best Actress): she previously won Best Actress in 2004 for Suddenly Last Summer and in 2000 for As You Like It; and in 1995, she won Most Promising Newcomer for The Master Builder and Retreat.

Andrew Scott was named Best Shakesperean Performance for Hamlet at the Almeida Theatre and West End transfer to the Harold Pinter Theatre.

Jez Butterworth’s Best New Play win for The Ferryman was his third Critics’ Circle Award for Best New Play: he previously won for Mojo in 1995 and Jerusalem in 2009.

Most Promising Playwright Award went to Brandon Jacob-Jenkins for An Octoroon at the Orange Tree Theatre and Gloria at Hampstead Theatre; while David Lan received a Special Award for services to theatre.

The Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards is one of the best loved ceremonies in the theatre awards calendar. It’s an informal gathering of award recipients, drama critics, theatre practitioners and the media, convivially coming together to celebrate the critics’ selection of the best theatre, from throughout the UK, during the last calendar year.

Since the Awards’ inception in 1989, the theatre critics, consisting entirely of respected and influential working journalists, have prided themselves on offering something unique on the packed theatre awards circuit: each member of the Drama Section independently casts their vote based on personal choice, free of any discussion or industry influence, ensuring a highly democratic voting process. For a second year, the Awards were produced by Terri Paddock.

Drama Section Chair Mark Shenton said: “Where other award ceremonies prioritise celebrity winners, see the industry rewarding itself or act as a public popularity contest, the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards alone are above the fray with their independence, judged by respected critics whose job it is to see theatre week in, week out, without fear or favour, and who have no other agenda than to celebrate excellence.

“Critics are invited to reward their favourite contirbutions to creative excellence equally across plays and musicals, so it is particularly striking this year to see the National Theatre’s production of Follies rewarded for Best Director and Best Designer, as well as both of the Most Promising Newcomer recipients seen in other musical-led shows, plus the UK’s first major award so far for Hamilton.”

Photo Gallery.

Image: Cameron Mackintosh and the cast of Hamilton. Photo by Peter Jones.