'Producers' Wins 3 British Theater Awards

Monday, February 21st 2005, 10:52 am
By: News On 6

LONDON (AP) _ ``The Producers'' produced the goods Sunday at the Laurence Olivier Awards, winning three prizes including best new musical at London's equivalent of Broadway's Tonys.

The West End production of Mel Brooks' raucous comedy also won the best actor award for transplanted Broadway star Nathan Lane.

Lane, a last-minute replacement for the ousted Richard Dreyfuss, won rave reviews for his irrepressible turn as unscrupulous impresario Max Bialystock. Lane, whose run in the show was cut short in December by a back injury, beat co-star Lee Evans to the prize.

An adaptation of Brooks' 1968 movie about a producer aiming for a surefire flop with the Nazi-themed musical ``Springtime for Hitler,'' ``The Producers'' opened on Broadway in 2001 and went on to win 12 Tonys.

Conleth Hill, who plays a hapless director forced to take to the stage as a singing, dancing Fuhrer in ``The Producers,'' was named best supporting actor in a musical during the 29th annual Oliviers ceremony at London's Park Lane Hilton hotel.

Laura Michelle Kelly was named best actress in a musical for her performance as the titular ``practically perfect'' nanny in ``Mary Poppins.''

An emotional Kelly thanked her husband, ``who gets me through all the pressure of taking over from Julie Andrews.''

The big-budget collaboration between Walt Disney Co. and mega-producer Cameron Mackintosh won just two awards from nine nominations, with Matthew Bourne and Stephen Mear taking the prize for best choreography.

``Grand Hotel,'' at the tiny Donmar Warehouse, was named outstanding musical production.

Alan Bennett's classroom drama ``The History Boys'' was the big winner in the drama categories, taking three awards including best new play. Nicholas Hytner won the best director prize for the sellout National Theatre production, while Richard Griffiths _ Uncle Vernon in the Harry Potter movies _ was named best actor.

Bennett, 70, a member of 1960s comedy troupe Beyond the Fringe and author of wry, thoughtful plays like ``Forty Years On,'' ``The Madness of George III'' and ``The Lady in the Van,'' received a special award for outstanding contribution to British theater.

Clare Higgins made it a hat trick of Oliviers by winning best actress in a play for the Greek tragedy ``Hecuba'' at the Donmar Warehouse. She had previously won prizes in 1995 for ``Sweet Bird of Youth``and 2003 for ``Vincent in Brixton.''

Best supporting performance in a play went to Amanda Harris for ``Othello'' at the Trafalgar Studios, while The Old Vic's highly praised production of ``Hamlet'' was named best revival.

Named for the late actor Lord Olivier, the awards are presented annually by The Society of London Theater to honor achievement in London theater, opera and dance.