Incredible facts about the history of the Olivier Awards in London

By | Posted on 29-Sep-2020

Incredible facts about the history of the Olivier Awards in London

The 2020 Olivier Awards have been postponed to 25 October 2020. For more information, please read here.

Since 1976, London theatre has been celebrated at the Olivier Awards, an annual ceremony awarding the best plays, musicals, dance productions and operas over the 12 months prior. With nominations for the 2020 Olivier Awards now announced, take a look back at the history of the award ceremony. From its inception in the 1970s to the present day, read about record-breaking productions, multi-awarded performers and different categories which have been awarded over the years.

All about the Olivier Awards

How many productions were eligible to receive nominations for the 2020 Olivier Awards?

106 productions were eligible in the main theatre categories for the 2020 Olivier Awards. There are West End shows up for nomination that are still running, so why not check them out here.

What’s the record for the most nominations ever received by a show?

In 2018, Hamilton received 13 nominations across 9 categories.

What show has received the most Olivier Awards?

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child won 9 awards in 2017.

How many categories were awarded in the first Olivier Awards in 1976?

There were 11 categories, with 8 awards dedicated to plays, 2 to comedies and 1 to musical theatre.

The awards haven’t always been named the Olivier Awards

When ceremonies began, they were previously named the Society of West End Awards. However, they were renamed in 1984 to honour the life and career of Laurence Olivier, with the man himself winning a lifetime performance award in 1989.

The awards have been broadcast on television

Nowadays, audiences can look forward to seeing the highlights of the Olivier Awards ceremony days after the event. But, televised coverage of the Olivier Awards has taken place from as early as 1981.

The awards are heavier than they appear

Did you know that an Olivier Award statue weighs around 1.6kg? They’re made out of bronze over the course of five days, so when an actor has to carry multiple Olivier Awards, it can be heavy work.

Who is the most awarded composer and lyricist?

New musicals by Stephen Sondheim have won best new musical 5 times: Sweeney Todd (1980), Follies (1987), Candide (1988), Sunday in the Park with George (1991) and Merrily We Roll Along (2001)

Who are the most awarded directors?

Howard Davies, Declan Donnellan, Richard Eyre and Sam Mendes have all won 3 Olivier Awards each.

Judi Dench has won 7 Olivier Awards. She is also the only performer to have won dramatic and musical Olivier awards in the same year; Absolute Hell and A Little Night Music (1996)

Which characters have earned the most nominations across all ceremonies?

The roles of Sweeney Todd and Mrs Lovett have seen their respective actors nominated for Olivier Awards three times (1980, 1994 and 2013) most recently Imelda Staunton and Michael Ball.

See Michael Ball on stage in 2020, with Hairspray tickets.

Have any performers won awards for starring in plays and musicals?

An illustrious group of stars have taken awards for their performances in West End plays and musicals:

Simon Russell Beale: Candide, Uncle Vanya
Jonathan Pryce: Miss Saigon, Hamlet
Henry Goodman: Assassins, The Merchant of Venice
Imelda StauntonGypsy, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods, A Chorus of Disapproval
Judi Dench: A Little Night Music, Absolute Hell, The Winter’s Tale, Antony and Cleopatra
Sheridan Smith: Legally Blonde, Flare Path
Janie Dee: Carousel, Comic Potential
Sharon D. Clarke: Caroline, or Change, The Amen Corner

How many people have won the special Olivier Award?

40 performers have received the award since the category was created in 1976, but the first winner was the ‘Save London Theatre Campaign’ designed to ensure that West End theatres were not demolished.

How young is the youngest winner of an Olivier Award?

At just 10 years old, Eleanor Worthington-Cox scooped the coveted award for best actress in a musical, as one of the original Matilda quartet at the Cambridge Theatre at the 2012 ceremony.