West End stars announced the return of live theater after long periods of Covid closure as the Olivier Awards get underway in London.
he revival of the hit musical Cabaret leads the nominations with 11 nominations for the Eddie Redmayne and Jessie Buckley production that transformed the West End’s Playhouse Theater into the Kit Kat Club.
Life Of Pi at Wyndham’s Theater and the classic musical revival of Anything Goes at the Barbican Theater each have nine nominations.
Beverley Knight, nominated for best actress in a musical for The Drifters Girl, said it was an “indescribable feeling” to return to the awards after such a difficult time for live theatre.
She told the PA news agency: “We’ve been without theater for so long, just had nothing, and people only realize how important the place theater and live entertainment played in any society is when they’ve been taken away.
“Then everyone was like, ‘Oh, they do, that’s why it’s important.’ It’s incredible to be back to celebrate.”
She added: “We’re bringing in millions, week in and week out. So we help boost the economy, but more than that, we feed the soul of the nation.
“How many people struggling with their mental health in the last two years have turned to streaming services, be it music, movies, documentaries or whatever?
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“That’s what we do. That’s our job, that’s where we come in. We’re a night of escapism for so many people, provoking people, making them think and entertaining them.”
West End star Ruthie Henshall added: “It’s so wonderful to have all these amazing people in the room, looking into each other’s eyes and saying, ‘Wow, that’s been two years.’
“It’s incredible to think of how many people have had to do whatever it takes to provide for their families because theater has really fallen by the wayside.
“There was no help for the theater and the theater people and the fact that we’re back, we’re here, we’re celebrating, that’s a beautiful thing for me because I saw people playing on stage for a minute and the next they drive vans and pick through.”
Anything Goes star Felicity Kendal said the past two years have been particularly difficult for young people entering theater.
She said: “We didn’t get any subsidies and the people, especially the young people who got into the business lost two years of their life, their professional life and sometimes had to give up because there was nothing to do.
“A lot of actors who are really not very wealthy take other jobs in restaurants early on, but nothing was open.
“So they didn’t even have that and they didn’t have the security of jobs that were coming their way. So it was really tough for us. But we’re in showbiz and we just keep going.”
Choreographer and former Strictly Come Dancing judge Dame Arlene Phillips said the closure of theaters was “one of the most emotionally difficult times I’ve been through,” adding, “It felt like all was lost.”
She continued, “Performers suffered, technicians, everyone who worked in the theater industry really suffered, not knowing what steps to take, what their future would be like, it was really hard.
“Besides, we lived in fear. I disinfected everything, day and night, nothing came into my house, I was afraid to walk by people.
“After two years, I took a deep breath and thought I was over it. Up until three weeks ago I got Covid and it was hitting me like I couldn’t even tell you and all I did was watch these two red lines in a state of panic, pure panic, trying to get towards one sink. Now I’m fine and I’m so excited.”
The Olivier Awards are held at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
https://www.independent.ie/entertainment/west-end-stars-celebrate-return-of-live-theatre-at-olivier-awards-41539648.html West End stars celebrate the return of live theater at the Olivier Awards