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Shortlist announced for The Stage Debut Awards 2020

Hira Desai

By Hira Desai First Published 13 August 2020, Last Updated 14 August 2020

It was announced today that Wendell Pierce (The Wire, Suits), David Mitchell (Peep Show), Aimee Lou Wood (Netflix’s Sex Education) and the stars of West End musical Dear Evan Hansen are all among the nominees for The Stage Debut Awards 2020, in association with Access Entertainment.

Sam Tutty, Rupert Young, Lauren Ward and Lucy Anderson in Dear Evan Hansen at the Noël Coward Theatre. Photo by Matthew Murphy.Sam Tutty in Dear Evan Hansen at the Noël Coward Theatre. (Photo credit: Matthew Murphy)

The annual Stage Debut Awards celebrate the very best breakthrough talent in theatre. It includes actors and directors to designers, writers, composers and lyricists, all of whom have made their professional debuts in the past year. Those made after August 1  2019 were eligible for this year’s awards.

Leading this year’s shortlist with four nominations is the Tony Award-winning musical Dear Evan Hansen. The creators of this globally acclaimed production Benj Pasek, Justin Paul and Steven Levenson (composer, lyricist and book) have been nominated for Best Creative West End Debut with leading actors Sam Tutty and Lucy Anderson competing for Best Performer in a Musical. Sam Tutty is also in the running for Best West End Debut Performer alongside Death of a Salesman’s Wendell Pierce, former X-Factor star Shan Ako for her performance in Les Misérables, comedy actor David Mitchell for The Upstart Crow and Aimee Lou Wood for Uncle Vanya.

Sharon D Clarke and Wendell Piece in Death Of A Salesman (Photo: Brinkhoff/Mogenburg)Sharon D Clarke and Wendell Piece in Death Of A Salesman (Photo credit: Brinkhoff/Mogenburg)

The full shortlist (listed below) is a celebration of the incredible pool of emerging talent across the UK. Alongside the more established theatremakers, the shortlist also includes newcomers from productions in Cardiff, Ipswich, Leeds, Leicester and Manchester, as well as from shows across London. Productions featuring debuts showcase the full range of theatre with nominees shortlisted for some of the largest productions in the West End and around the UK as well as pub, fringe and open-air theatre.

Alistair Smith, editor at The Stage said: “At what is an exceptionally difficult time for new talent starting out in theatre, we’re delighted to be able to shine a spotlight on a selection of the great emerging performers and creatives who lit up our stages before theatres were closed in March. Despite a shortened judging period, the sheer quality and diversity of our shortlists demonstrate the continued brilliance of our industry’s extraordinary workforce. These will be the people who make sure that theatre not only survives the current crisis, but returns even stronger after it.

“We are really proud that – despite the fact we cannot have a physical ceremony this year – we will be able to continue to celebrate these talented theatremakers, who are positively shaping the future of British theatre, with a special virtual ceremony that will be available to watch online. Please join us to help celebrate and support the very best emerging talent in UK theatre.”

Danny Cohen, president of Access Entertainment, said: “Access Entertainment is delighted to sponsor The Stage Debut Awards for the third year and continue our commitment to nurturing new talent  – needed now more than ever at such a challenging time for theatre and the creative industries.”

You’ll be pleased to know that you too can get involved as The Best West End Debut Performer award is the only category where the winner is determined by an online public vote. Please cast your votes online here. This award celebrates a performer’s first time in London’s West End. Please make sure you’ve voted before closure at midday on Wednesday 26 August.

The winners will be announced online on Sunday 27 September at 7pm during the first-ever virtual Stage Debut Awards ceremony.

You can tune in to watch the awards ceremony online for free by heading over to The Stage website or Facebook Page. Please note, it is recommended that you sign up in advance to ensure you don’t miss out. 

The shortlist in full:

Best Performer in a Play – sponsored by Audible 

  • Saida Ahmed for Little Miss Burden at The Bunker, London
  • Katie Erich for Oliver Twist at Leeds Playhouse  (in a co-production with Ramps on the Moon)
  • Brooklyn Melvin for Oliver Twist at Leeds Playhouse (in a co-production with Ramps on the Moon)
  • Daniel Monks for Teenage Dick at the Donmar Warehouse, London
  • Rachel Nwokoro for Little Baby Jesus at the Orange Tree Theatre, London
  • Jessica Rhodes for The Sugar Syndrome at the Orange Tree Theatre, London
  • Khai Shaw for Little Baby Jesus at the Orange Tree Theatre, London
  • Bobby Stallwood for Faith, Hope and Charity at the National Theatre, London

Best Performer in a Musical  

  • Shan Ako for Les Misérables at the Sondheim Theatre, London
  • Lucy Anderson for Dear Evan Hansen at the Noël Coward Theatre, London
  • Chase Brown for Mame at the Hope Mill Theatre, Manchester
  • Oli Higginson for The Last Five Years at the Southwark Playhouse, London
  • Adriana Ivelisse for West Side Story at Curve, Leicester
  • Tom Noyes for Preludes at the Southwark Playhouse, London
  • Bethany Tennick for Islander at the Southwark Playhouse, London
  • Sam Tutty for Dear Evan Hansen at the Noël Coward Theatre, London

Best Director – sponsored by Smith & Williamson  

  • Georgia Green for The Mikvah Project at the Orange Tree Theatre, London
  • Martha Kiss Perrone for When It Breaks It Burns at the Battersea Arts Centre, London
  • Alex Sutton for Preludes at the Southwark Playhouse, London

Best Designer – sponsored by Robe Lighting  

  • Liam Bunster (set and costume) for The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare’s Globe, London
  • Andrew Exeter (lighting) for High Fidelity at the Turbine Theatre, London
  • Rose Revitt (set and costume) for Dr Korczak’s Example at Leeds Playhouse

Best Composer or Lyricist  

  • Jim Barne and Kit Buchan for The Season at the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich and Royal & Derngate, Northampton
  • Jherek Bischoff for The Ocean at the End of the Lane at the National Theatre, London
  • Robbie Williams for The Boy in the Dress at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon

Best Writer  

  • Samuel Bailey for Shook at the Southwark Playhouse, London
  • Mari Izzard for Hela at The Other Room, Cardiff
  • Eleanor Tindall for Before I Was a Bear at The Bunker, London
  • Temi Wilkey for The High Table at the Bush Theatre, London (in a co-production with Birmingham Rep)

Best West End Debut Performer – sponsored by Trafalgar Entertainment 

  • Shan Ako for Les Misérables at the Sondheim Theatre
  • David Mitchell for The Upstart Crow at the Gielgud Theatre
  • Daniel Monks for Teenage Dick at the Donmar Warehouse
  • Samantha Pauly for Evita at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
  • Wendell Pierce for Death of a Salesman at the Piccadilly Theatre
  • Sam Tutty for Dear Evan Hansen at the Noël Coward Theatre
  • Aimee Lou Wood for Uncle Vanya at the Harold Pinter Theatre

Best Creative West End Debut – sponsored by the Noël Coward Foundation 

  • Fabian Aloise (choreographer) for Evita at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre
  • Nadia Latif (director) for Fairview at the Young Vic Theatre
  • Benj PasekJustin Paul and Steven Levenson (composer, lyricist & book) for Dear Evan Hansen at the Noël Coward Theatre
  • Femi Temowo (composer) for Death of a Salesman at the Piccadilly Theatre and for Three Sisters at the National Theatre
  • David West Read (book) for & Juliet at the Shaftesbury Theatre

For more information visit thestage.co.uk/debuts

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