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Noma Dumezweni and Anthony Boyle (Credit: David Levene)

Noma Dumezweni and Anthony Boyle (Credit: David Levene)

10 reasons to watch the Olivier Awards tonight

First Published 11 April 2017, Last Updated 14 April 2017

We know you know who won, but that’s only half the fun! Tune into ITV tonight at 8pm to see all the action, from the electric performances to the weepy winners, including these ten great moments.

1. Amber Riley

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Without a doubt, the first jaw-dropping moment of the show is Best Actress In A Musical Amber Riley’s performance of “And I Am Telling You”, from Dreamgirls. Riley brings the house down with her number in the first half of the programme and then returns to the stage to bring the audience to tears with her acceptance speech at the end. If Effie White’s story didn’t already give you chills, Amber’s connection to it definitely will.

2. Outstanding Achievement In Music: The kids of School of Rock 

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The old joke on the streets of New York goes: “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” “Practice, practice, practice!” So: How do get to Royal Albert Hall [to take home an Olivier for Outstanding Achievement in Music]? According to the kids of School of Rock, you guessed it: Practice, practice, practice! The incredible kiddos from the Andrew Lloyd Webber/Julian Fellowes tuner out-played the music of Dreamgirls, Jesus Christ Superstar, and the winningest show of the evening, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, for this award. Their fantastic acceptance speech highlights the hard work they’ve put into making the band and the importance of music in our schools, and they urge all the kids watching to keep on practicing, delighting piano teachers worldwide.

3. Noma’s heartfelt speech

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The programme isn’t without its political moments, direct and otherwise. Best Actress winner Noma Dumezweni, for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, uses her acceptance speech to deliver a powerful message––that she, her mother, and her sister were refugees to the UK forty years ago, and (we’re paraphrasing here) that she is the woman and actress she is thanks to the home they found here. It is an incredible moment.

4. While we’re on heartfelt moments: Audra’s performance

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“Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is always a tearjerker, but if you’ve never heard Audra McDonald sing it, you’re missing out. The six-time Tony Award-winner, who will make her West End debut (finally!) this June in Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill, brings tears to the audience’s eyes with the classic song as the In Memoriam segment plays. It’s a beautiful and touching reminder of those we’ve lost in the industry in the past year.

5. Audra back onstage… with Lin-Manuel!

Audra McDonald and Lin-Manuel Miranda (Credit: Matt Humphrey)

(Credit: Matt Humphrey)

Honestly, not much to report here except the double-whammy of some of Broadway’s brightest lights onstage together, right here in our West End: Audra and Lin-Manuel Miranda present the Mastercard Best New Musical award to Tim Minchin for Groundhog Day. Once Minchin takes the stage, the triumvirate of 21st Century Musical Theatre Royalty is complete, and the three of them transcend to the heavens on the shoulders of Lord Lloyd Webber and Stephen Sondheim, serenaded by a chorus of singing Olivier Award statues. Okay, some of that is not true.

6. The cast of The Girls… and Gary Barlow… AND Women’s Institute Choristers! 

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If “Yorkshire”, the opening number of The Girls, doesn’t make you smile, we don’t know what can. The team behind the Mastercard Best New Musical nominee didn’t want to take any chances with their Oliviers performance, however, so in addition to the show’s cast, you can spot writer Gary Barlow tickling the ivories, and a chorus of 200 WI members singing along, each holding a sunflower. And according to @thegirlsmusical on Twitter, one of those ladies is writer/director Tim Firth’s mum!

7. Surprising Kenneth Branagh 

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We’re not close personal friends with Kenneth Branagh (though it felt for a time, given our many viewings of his “Hamlet” film as teenagers, that we might qualify), but we have the feeling that surprising him onstage, in the very sphere in which he has excelled to the point of receiving a Special Award at the Oliviers, is not easy to pull off. But lo and behold, as he accepts his award, he is joined onstage by more than 60 cast members from 2015-16’s Kenneth Branagh Theatre Company season. And it’s worth noting, as presenter Mark Rylance and Branagh himself does, that Branagh’s 30-year career in film and theatre has brought hundreds of millions of pounds into the UK economy––another important political statement about the value of investment in the arts.

8. Speaking of Mark: Rylance without a hat

Mark Rylance at the Olivier Awards with Mastercard (Credit: Matt Humphrey)

(Credit: Matt Humphrey)

Think about it. When was the last time you saw Mark Rylance without a hat on? Not counting times when he’s onstage or screen in a role. Tune in to ITV tonight to see the top of Mark Rylance’s head!

9. Banter with Jason Manford

Jason Manford backstage at the Olivier Awards (Credit: Matt Humphrey)

(Credit: Matt Humphrey)

A tip of the hat to our fabulous host Jason Manford, who keeps the show clipping along at a healthy trot whilst dropping in some zingy one-liners. Manford also squeezes out some good news for West End fans from his (apparently longtime) pal Tim Minchin, who says that Mastercard Best New Musical winner Groundhog Day could be headed back to the West End very soon: “If it’s not here within a year, you can come and get angry with me”, said Minchin. Great work, Manford!

10. Oh, just a little show about some wizards

Noma Dumezweni and Anthony Boyle (Credit: David Levene)

(Credit: David Levene)

Nine Olivier Awards, more than any one show has ever received, make their way into the hands of the team from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child: three actors, one director, four designers, and Best New Play. We’ve already covered Noma’s incredible speech in this list, but the others are no slouches––get ready for Anthony Boyle’s shout out to his brother, among many other high points. All of the Potter winners give at least a nod to how honoured they are to be part of the Harry Potter universe, including the technical winners, in a show of true solidarity and commitment to the world they inhabit nightly. Director John Tiffany’s speech is a great place to end this list and get you jazzed for tonight’s show: “The power of imagination is infinite”, he says. “We need it now more than ever.”

By Abby Dan

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