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The Six Queens – Jarneia Richard-Noel, Alexia McIntosh, Millie O’Connell, Natalie Paris, Jarneia Richard-Noel and Aimie Atkinson – and Rachel Tucker at the Olivier Awards 2019 nominees’ celebration (Photo: Pamela Raith)

The Six Queens - Jarneia Richard-Noel, Alexia McIntosh, Millie O'Connell, Natalie Paris, Jarneia Richard-Noel and Aimie Atkinson - and Rachel Tucker at the Olivier Awards 2019 nominees' celebration (Photo: Pamela Raith)

Olivier Awards 2019: First-time nominees

Eleni Cashell

By Eleni Cashell First Published 27 March 2019, Last Updated 28 March 2019

Theatreland is witnessing some incredible new talent at the moment. And this has never been clearer than with this year’s nominees for the Olivier Awards 2019 with Mastercard.

There are over 50 first-time nominees this year, in fact, two categories are completely made up of newcomers! (Best Actor in a Musical and Best Theatre Choreographer).

Here’s a bit more about these Olivier Award nominee newbies…

Best Actor

Ben Miles, The Lehman Trilogy

Simon Russell Beale, Ben Miles and Adam Godley in The Lehman Trilogy at the National Theatre (Photo: Mark Douet)

While his nominated co-stars in The Lehman Trilogy (Simon Russell Beale & Adam Godley) have previously been up for an Olivier Award, Ben is receiving his first ever nomination. Playing the middle Lehman brother Emanuel in the show, all three actors received high praise for their roles. There will be no sibling rivalry either, as all three actors are up for this award together.

Although no stranger to award shows, Ben has been previously nominated for a Tony Award for his performance in Wolf Hall.


Arinzé Kene, Misty

Arinzé Kene in Misty (Photo: Helen Murray)

Misty was a huge success for Arinzé, who had written the play, as well as starring in it. Starting life at the Bush Theatre, the show was a sold-out hit and soon transferred to the Trafalgar Studios.

This wasn’t his first writing hit though. Arinzé’s previous play, Suffocation, ran in 2011 at the Oval House Theatre, and in the previous year, he won  Most Promising Playwright at the Off West End award ceremony, The Offies.


Best Actress

Patsy Ferran, Summer And Smoke

Patsy Ferran in Summer And Smoke (Photo: Marc Brenner)

Patsy’s performance in Summer And Smoke was applauded (loudly) by critics and audiences alike. Playing the role of Alma in both the initial run at the Almeida Theatre and in its West End transfer, she was described as “one of the most exciting actors on the British stage” (The Guardian).

Missed her performance? Don’t worry, you’ve not missed the chance to see Patsy shine. She’s returning to the Almeida Theatre to play Olga in Chekov’s Three Sisters between 8 April – 1 June.


Sophie Okonedo, Antony And Cleopatra

Sophie is having a pretty terrific year. She started off 2019 by receiving a CBE and just a few short months later, she’s up for her first ever Olivier Award.

Sophie has previously received recognition for her other TV, film and theatre work too, including BAFTAs, Golden Globes and at the Academy Awards. Sophie went onto win a Tony award in 2014 for Best Featured Actress in a Play.


Katherine Parkinson, Home I’m Darling

Katherine Parkinson as Judy in Home, I'm Darling (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Katherine’s performance of the wannabe domestic housewife Judy in Home I’m Darling was described as “superb” (The Guardian), and “undeniably comic” (The Independent).

The show has been so popular it’s transferred twice since its initial run at the Theatr Clwyd. It went onto the National Theatre, and you can still catch her Olivier nominated performance at the Duke Of York’s Theatre.


Best Actress in A Musical

Kelli O’Hara, The King And I

Kelli O’Hara, The King And I

Not only is this Kelli’s first ever Olivier nomination, but she’s landed this recognition for her West End debut. Already a household name in America, Kelli has been described as ‘Broadway musical’s undisputed Queen’ (The Sunday Times). In fact, she’d already won a Tony award for her portrayal of Anna in The King And I, before coming over to the UK to reprise her role.


Adrienne Warren, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

Adrienne Warren and the cast of Tina - The Tina Turner Musical (Photo: Manuel Harlan)

Originating the lead role in Tina – The Tina Turner Musical, Adrienne has been so successful that she’s soon leaving the West End to reprise the role on Broadway. But playing Tina wasn’t the first role Adrienne’s originated, as she’s also responsible for originating the role of Danielle in Bring It On The Musical.

You’ve still got time to catch her Olivier nominated performance, as Adrienne leaves the West End production on 13 April.


Best Actor in a Musical

Marc Antolin, Little Shop Of Horrors

Marc Antolin in Little Shop Of Horrors (Photo: Johan Persson)

Welsh actor Marc battled against a killer plant (and occasionally heavy rain) playing the lead role in the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre production of Little Shop Of Horrors. In this breakout performance, Marc made a huge impression on audiences, who wanted to see-more and more of loveable Seymour.

Marc had previously been in other successful shows including Peter Pan at the National Theatre, and the RSC production of Matilda The Musical.


Kobna Holdbrook-Smith, Tina – The Tina Turner Musical

Kobna Holdbrook-Smith (Ike Turner). Photo by Manuel Harlan

Both the lead roles from Tina – The Tina Turner Musical are receiving their first ever Olivier Award nomination this year.

The role of Ike is a tricky one to play, but Kobna received high praise for his performance right from the start, with Tina Turner herself approving of the casting.

You can catch Kobna’s nominee-worthy performance in the West End until the 13 April, when both he and Adrienne will be leaving the show. Or you can download the single, The Hunter, from the upcoming cast album, which features his beautiful dulcet tones.


Zubin Varla, Fun Home

Fun Home was a huge success during its run at the Young Vic last year, and it went onto land three Olivier Award nominations, including in the Mastercard Best New Musical category.

Zubin played the heart-breaking role of Bruce, a father with a secret life that he desperately tries to hide from his family, including his daughter, Alison, who narrates the story.  Critics often reflected on the difficulty of this role, and how well Bruce portrayed this complex character.


Ken Watanabe,  The King And I

Ken Watanabe

Ken had already seen huge success from playing the lead role in The King And I on Broadway in 2015, before coming to the West End to reprise the role.

When he first played this role in 2015, Ken landed his first ever Tony Award nomination for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. Although he didn’t win, it was still a huge achievement, as he was the first ever Japanese actor to be nominated in that particular category.


Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Susan Brown, Home I’m Darling

Susan Brown in Home, I'm Darling

Although her first ever Olivier Award nomination, Susan has been in numerous stage and TV shows. This includes several RSC productions, Broadchurch, Prime Suspect and Call The Midwife, to name just a few. The nomination caps a remarkable year for Susan, as she was also nominated for a Tony Award for her role in the National’s epic production of Angels In America on Broadway last year.

In Home, I’m Darling, Susan plays Sylvia, the fed-up mother of Judy, a wannabe domestic housewife. Sylvia is desperate for Judy to have another path in life, but will Judy want that? You can still catch this mother and daughter nominated performance (both Susan and Katherine are up for an Olivier Award), as the show closes on the 13 April.


Best Actress In a Supporting Role In A Musical

Ruthie Ann Miles, The King And I

Ruthie Ann Miles, The King And I

Up for an award for her portrayal of Lady Thiang in The King And I, just like her co-star Ken, Ruthie also initially played this role in an American production.

Starting off on Broadway, Ruthie has already won a Tony Award for her stand-out and sensational performance. When she reprised the role for the London production, she received rave reviews, with one critic saying, “her commitment to the characterisation provides a masterclass in stage acting” (West End Wilma).


“The Queens” – Aimie Atkinson, Alexia McIntosh, Millie O’Connell, Natalie Paris, Maiya Quansah-Breed and Jarneia Richard-Noel, Six

Six The Musical - Photo by Idil Sukan

These six incredible performers are keeping the message of girl power alive by being nominated together in this category. None of these actresses has ever received an Olivier Award nomination before, and their other nomination in the Mastercard Best New Musical category will see these royal queens performing on the night too.

The queens have had a huge year already. From having their 12 week run extended for 12 months and landing five Olivier nominations, to announcing their first ever sing-a-long performance and seeing their cast album streamed over 3 million times, they continue to make her-story with this royally good musical.

You can still hear their side of the story by booking tickets to see Six.


Rachel Tucker, Come From Away

Rachel Tucker, Come From Away

Rachel has become a West End success story, having first got people’s attention on the BBC show, I’d Do Anything, where she was competing to play the role of Nancy in a production of Oliver.

Although she didn’t win the role, Rachel still went on to achieve huge success in the theatre. This includes playing Elphaba in the iconic musical Wicked, joining the cast of We Will Rock You and even going on tour with her own solo show. Up for her first ever Olivier Award, Rachel’s career is going as high as the sky she sings about in Come From Away!

You can still catch Rachel’s Olivier-nominated performance in Come From Away, and tickets are available right here on Official London Theatre!


Best Actor In A Supporting Role

Keir Charles, Quiz

Keir had possibly one of our favourite reactions upon hearing he’d been nominated for his first ever Olivier Award. Celebrating on Twitter, Keir promised to be the “Richard E Grant” of the awards, and “love every minute of it”.

Keir was praised for his performance for Quiz last year, where he stepped into the shoes of several iconic game show presenters, including Chris Tarrant Des O’Connor and Leslie Crowther.


Adam Gillen, Killer Joe

Adam Gillen in Killer Joe at Trafalgar Studios (Photo: Marc Brenner)

Described as playing the role of Chris in the production of Killer Joe as “courteous and cool” (Evening Standard), Adam Gillen’s enthralling performance stood out as much as his co-star Orlando Bloom’s did.

Unrecognisable from his previous TV performances, Adam has appeared in many successful shows, including Benidorm, Fresh Meat and BBC’s Prisoners’ Wives.


Adrian Lukis, The Price

Adrian Lukis, The Price

Although this is Adrian’s first ever Olivier Award nomination, he’s got history with the award’s namesake, having previously played Lawrence Olivier in a production called Orson’s Shadow. The show was the speculative story of what happened when Orson Wells directed Lawrence Olivier in the 1960s.

Adrian has been nominated for his portrayal of Walter Franz in The Price. The show is about Walter and his estranged brother Victor, who are reunited in the attic of a condemned New York brownstone because family furtniute needs to be sold.

You can watch both Adrian and David Suchet’s Olivier nominated performance in The Price until 27 April.


Chris Walley, The Lieutenant Of Inishmore

Chris Walley, The Lieutenant Of Inishmore

A relative newcomer to Theatreland, Chris made his West End debut playing Davey in The Lieutenant Of Inishmore, and received exceptional reviews for it. Critics described his performance as “excruciatingly brilliant” (Time Out) and “effortless” (New York Times).

The show catapulted Chris into the limelight, and he went on to pick up a nomination at the Evening Standard Emerging Talent Award for his performance.


Best Actor In A Supporting Role In A Musical

Jonathan Bailey, Company

Although this is Jonathan’s first ever Olivier nomination, he has appeared in numerous theatre and TV productions that you’re bound to recognise him from. From Broadchurch and W1A to Othello at the National Theatre and The Last Five Years at the St James’ Theatre.

In Company, Jonathan has one of the most fast-paced and tongue-twisting songs of the production, entitled “Getting Married Today”. You can listen to the song for yourself on the official cast soundtrack, or you can watch us put the other cast members through their paces with it on opening night!


Richard Fleeshman, Company

Up against his co-star Jonathan, in Company Richard plays the young pilot, Andy, who’s bound for Barcelona.

Far away from his old home of the cobbles of Coronation Street, Richard started acting on the show when he was just twelve years old. After four years there, he left to pursue a theatre career, which seems to have gone rather successfully! As well as Company, Richard has appeared in many other musicals including the UK premiere of Urinetown, A Damsel In Distress and Ghost: The Musical.


Robert Hands, Come From Away

Playing the love-struck Nick in Come From Away, several plane passengers as well as some of the residents of Gander, Robert Hands has been nominated for his multiple portrayals within the show.

Robert has been performing for over 20 years and has played many iconic lead roles on stage. This includes playing Sir Robin in the original London cast of Spamalot, Harry Bright in the West End production of Mamma Mia! and Arthur Kipps in Woman In Black.


Outstanding Achievement In Affiliate Theatre

Athena Stevens, Schism

Athena Stevens, Schism

An acclaimed actor, writer and director – as well as stand-up comedian – Athena Stevens wrote, and starred in, her acclaimed play Schism at the Park Theatre last summer.

The candid and hard-hitting play Schism premiered at the Finborough Theatre in 2016, a run in which Athena also starred. The show’s scores of praise made an Off-West End transfer inevitable, and its arrival at the Park Theatre was met with similar acclaim. Athena’s West End debut as an actress and playwright came in 2011 in the brilliantly received The Amazing Vancetti Sisters. In addition, she runs the blog Never Walked In High Heels.


More first-time nominees

And it’s not just the on-stage talent who are receiving their first ever Olivier Award nomination! Many offstage creative geniuses got the news that they’re up for their first ever Olivier Award too! They are:

Best Costume Design

  • Fly Davis, Caroline Or Change
  • Gabriella Slade, Six
  • Catherine Zuber for The King And I


White Light Award for Best Lighting Design

  • Jon Clark, The Inheritance
  • Lee Curran, Summer And Smoke


Royal Albert Hall Award for Best Sound Design

best sound design first time nominees

  • Christopher Reid, The Inheritance
  • Mike Beer, A Monster Calls
  • Gareth Owen, Come From Away
  • Nick Powell with Dominic Bilkey, The Lehman Trilogy


Sir Peter Hall Award for Best Director

  • Christopher Ashley, Come From Away
  • Rebecca Frecknall, Summer And Smoke


Best Theatre Choreographer

Best Theatre Choreographer nominees

  • Kelly Devine, Come From Away
  • Christopher Gattelli based on original choreography by Jerome Robbins, The King And I 
  • Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, Six
  • Liam Steel, Company


Outstanding Achievement In Dance

  • John MacFarlane for his designs for The Royal Ballet’s production of Swan Lake 
  • Dimitris Papaioannou for his choreography of The Great Tamer for Dance Umbrella


Outstanding Achievement In Opera

  • David Butt Philip and Roderick Williams for their performances in War Requiem 
  • Andris Nelsons for his conducting of Lohengrin 


Don’t miss the Olivier Awards 2019 with Mastercard on the 7 April, when we will be revealing the winners of these prestigious awards. You can follow all the live coverage right here on Official London Theatre, as well as on our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages.


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adam gillen adrian lukis adrienne warren Aimie Atkinson Alexia McIntosh Arinzé Kene athena stevens ben miles chris walley Jarneia Richard-Noel Jonathan bailey katherine parkinson keir charles kelli o'hara ken watanabe kobna holdbrook-smith Maiya Quansah-Breed marc antolin Millie O’Connell Natalie Paris Olivier Awards olivier awards 2019 patsy ferran rachel tucker richard fleeshman robert hands ruthie ann miles sophie okonedo susan brown zubin varla

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