‘Sunset Boulevard,’ Heading to Broadway, Wins Big at Olivier Awards

A reimagining of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Sunset Boulevard,” starring Nicole Scherzinger as Norma Desmond, the long forgotten silent movie star who descends into madness, was the big winner at this year’s Olivier Awards, Britain’s equivalent of the Tonys.

The musical, which will open at the St. James Theater on Broadway this fall, was honored Sunday during a ceremony at the Royal Albert Hall in London with seven awards, including best musical revival, best actress in a musical for Scherzinger, best actor in a musical for Tom Francis, as the screenwriter who falls for Desmond’s charms, and best director for Jamie Lloyd.

The number of awards was hardly a surprise. After the musical opened last fall, critics praised Lloyd’s stark production, especially highlighting its contemporary twists that included using cameras to zoom in on characters’ faces, then beam their emotions onto a screen at the back of the stage.

Matt Wolf, writing in The New York Times, said that Lloyd’s production belonged firmly “to the here and now.” With this show, the director “takes an established musical by the scruff of the neck and sends it careering into the modern day,” Wolf added.

Sarah Hemming, in The Financial Times, was among the critics to praise Scherzinger’s magnetic performance. “She’s not afraid to look scary or ridiculous,” Hemming said, “but there’s also a strung-out vulnerability about her. And when she sings, she pins you to your seat with the harrowing intensity of her delivery.”

“Sunset Boulevard” beat several other acclaimed productions to the best musical revival award, including “Guys & Dolls” at the Bridge Theater and “Hadestown” at the Lyric Theater.

Sarah Snook in “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” a solo version for which she won best actress at the Olivier Awards. Snook plays 26 roles in the show.Credit…Marc Brenner

A host of musicals and plays shared the night’s other major prizes. “Operation Mincemeat,” a word-of-mouth hit about a bizarre World War II counterintelligence plot that is running at the Fortune Theater, won best new musical. While “Stranger Things: The First Shadow,” a prequel to the Netflix show, now at the Phoenix Theater, was chosen as best new entertainment or comedy play.

The best new play award went to James Graham’s “Dear England,” about the English national soccer team, which transferred to the West End from the National Theater.

In the hotly contested acting categories, Sarah Snook (“Succession”) was named best actress for “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” a solo show running through May 11 at the Theater Royal Haymarket. Snook plays all 26 roles, often interacting with recorded projections of her characters.

Before Sunday’s ceremony, some critics had expected the best actor award to go to Andrew Scott for a similarly dazzling solo performance: a one-man “Vanya” at the Duke of York’s Theater. In the end, the prize went to Mark Gatiss for his role as the revered actor and director John Gielgud in “The Motive and the Cue,” a play by Jack Thorne that dramatizes the fraught backstage relationship between Gielgud and Richard Burton as they worked on a Broadway show. Like “Dear England,” that play ran at the National Theater before transferring to the West End.

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