2017 Best Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actor in a Play


Ken Nwosu, An Octoroon
It is great news indeed that this Orange Tree production will be gaining further life in 2018 with a transfer to the National Theatre in the summer. I really hope that as much of the original cast comes with it, especially Nwosu who anchored the complex ideas of the show with confidence and clear-sighted integrity. 

Honourable mention: Andrew Scott, Hamlet

In the parlance de nos jours, Scott managed that most difficult of things to really make this most-well-known of roles his own, his collaboration with Rob Icke breathing a conversationally, contemporary life into the part that was utterly mesmerising.

Andrew Garfield, Angels in America
Gary Lilburn, Trestle
Ian McKellen, King Lear
Cyril Nri, Barber Shop Chronicles

Sam Troughton, Beginning

8-10
Bryan Cranston, Network; Conleth Hill, Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf; James McArdle, Angels in America

Best Actor in a Musical


Giles Terera, Hamilton
In the midst of all the hype and expectation that was the first preview, and in a production that had no right to be that polished and on-point, there was no doubt in my mind about who the star of the evening was. Terera’s Burr feels very much his own creation and delivers a well-deserved push into the limelight for this most charismatic of performers – I suspect this won’t be his first award.

Honourable mention: Scott Hunter/Andy Coxon, Yank! A WWII Love Story
Hitting the right time and place, I first saw Yank! in the afternoon of London Pride and a happier, gayer Clowns I could not have been. And at its heart is the epic, tragic romance of Stu and Mitch, brought to beautiful life by Scott Hunter and Andy Coxon respectively.

John McCrea, Everybody’s Talking About Jamie
Philip Quast, Follies
Michael Rouse, Superhero

Jamael Westman, Hamilton
8-10
Alastair Brookshaw, A Little Night Music; Robert Fairchild, An American in Paris; Dominic Marsh, Romantics Anonymous

2016 Best Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actor in a Play

O-T Fagbenle, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
Full of potent rage but rendered impotent by the race politics of 1920s America, Fagbenle’s powder-keg of a performance is etched on my mind in all its revolutionary rage and the punch in the stomach of the finale proved one of those moments I don’t think I’ll ever forget. Truly superb.

Honourable mention: Lucian Msamati, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
I ummed and aahed over whether to categorise this as a lead or supporting performance but ultimately there’s no denying how pivotal a role Toledo is. And how powerful Msamati was in it, starting off a superlative year for him in which he’s taken the National by storm.

Phil Dunster, Pink Mist
Paapa Essiedu, Hamlet
Rhys Isaac-Jones, Jess and Joe Forever
Lucian Msamati, Amadeus
Danny Sapani, Les Blancs

8-10
Gregory Ashton, Two Short Plays About Gays; Hans Kesting, Kings of War; Michael Socha, This Is Living

Best Actor in a Musical

Louis Maskell, The Grinning Man
As damaged soul Grinpayne, Maskell had the unenviable task of conveying the deep emotions of his character with much of his face obscured but through his sensitive acting and gorgeous vocal work, he perfectly captured the bittersweetly romantic tone of this Gothic hero. Surely, surely, we haven’t seen the last of this show.

Honourable mention: Ako Mitchell, Ragtime
The fact that Ragtime straddled the US presidential election only heightened the power of its message and at its heart, Mitchell’s Coalhouse Walker Jnr on his journey of aspiration destroyed by intolerance felt like a beacon for so much more than Ahrens and Flaherty could ever have dreamed.

Declan Bennett, Jesus Christ Superstar
Dex Lee, Grease
Hugh Maynard, Sweeney Todd
Charlie Stemp, Half A Sixpence
Mark Umbers, She Loves Me

8-10
Fra Fee. The Wind in the Willows; Ashley Robinson, Floyd Collins; Michael Xavier, Sunset Boulevard

2015 Best Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actor in a Play

John Heffernan, Oppenheimer
Many are the ways in which I love Heffernan but the increasingly regularity with which he is scoring leading roles in interesting plays has to be chief among them, as for the many friends who have followed his career for a while now. And as the father of the atomic bomb here, he did not disappoint, bringing his customary diligence and intelligence to bear with the many conflicts of this fascinating character. 

Honourable mention: David Morrissey, Hangmen
The perfect exemplar for Martin McDonagh’s portrait of mixed-up masculinity in ’60s Oldham, Morrissey’s former-hangman-turned-pub-landlord was at the same time a blistering paean to the past and a scorching reminder to let go thereof.

Chiwetel Ejiofor, Everyman
Jamie Samuel, Plastic Figurines
Eelco Smits, Glazen Speelgoed
Angus Wright, Oresteia

7-10

Ron Cook, The Homecoming; Jason Hughes, Violence and Son; Cal MacAninch, My Eyes Went Dark; Henry Pettigrew, The Effect

Best Actor in a Musical

Giles Terera, Pure Imagination

These awards are about the moments that live strongest in my mind and for me, Terera sweeping me (and the rest of the audience, I suppose!) up into a world of pure imagination and candy bars is right there at the top. Rumours of him heading up a Sammy Davis Jnr musical abound but on this evidence, he should be aiming for Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory itself.

Honourable mention: Matt Henry, Kinky Boots
Derided in some parts as reality show stunt casting when first announced, Henry silenced the doubters and then some with an astonishingly assured performance as Lola, the drag queen taking most of Northampton – and herself – on quite the journey.

Ian Bartholomew, Mrs Henderson Presents
Killian Donnelly, Kinky Boots
Scott Garnham, Grand Hotel
Alex Gaumond, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

7-10

Dean John-Wilson, Songs For A New World; Alan McHale, The Clockmaker’s Daughter; Haydn Oakley, The Smallest Show on Earth; Simon Paisley Day, The Lorax

2014 Best Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actor in a Play

Cary Crankson, The Saints
An open air theatre in Southampton might seem an unlikely place to find one of the performances of the year, or perhaps not as it turned out. Crankson’s Southampton FC supporter made for a hugely appealing leading man, in a hugely appealing play from Luke Barnes that really deserves future life, and his ineffable likeability was a considerable achievement that fully deserves its mention here.

Honourable mention: Jack Holden, Johnny Get Your Gun
In a year full of tributes to the outbreak of the First World War, this and The Silver Tassie stand out most for me. And of these, this monologue is the one forever etched on my memory – knowing nothing about it beforehand served me well as it meant I felt every single one of Holden’s hammer-blows of punishing emotion and pragmatism in the face of tragedy. Amazing stuff.

Jonathan Broadbent, My Night With Reg
Chris Connel, Wet House
Harry Melling, peddling
Mark Strong, A View From The Bridge

7-10
James Bolam, Bomber’s Moon; Ben Foster, A Streetcar Named Desire; Jamie Sives, The James Plays; Robin Soans, Visitors

Best Actor in a Musical

Sam Mackay, In The Heights
Spearheading this genuinely exciting piece of modern musical theatre is a genuinely exciting modern musical theatre performer. Londoner Mackay delivers Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Latin-inflected hip hop score as if he were a bona fide Washington Heights resident and if the rumours about a return for the show come true, then I really hope he returns with it.

Honourable mention: Benjamin Scheuer, The Lion
One of those performances, and shows, that is truly difficult to do justice to in simple words. Life-affirming, heartfelt, blisteringly honest and poignantly powerful – a one-man-show to convince anyone who say they don’t like one-men-shows.

Adrian der Gregorian, Made In Dagenham
Killian Donnelly, Memphis
Jon Robyns, The Last Five Years
Jeremy Secomb, Sweeney Todd (Tooting Arts Club)

7-10
Mark Bautista, Here Lies Love; Alastair Brookshaw, De Profundis; Ben Lewis/Greg Barnett, Thérèse Raquin (Finborough/Park); Jamie Parker, Guys and Dolls

2013 Best Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actor in a Play

Philip Duguid-McQuillan & Jamie Samuel, Jumpers for Goalposts

Maybe a bit of a cheat, but I couldn’t pick between the two stars of one of the best new plays of recent years and the most genuinely lovely depiction of teenage romance you could ever hope to see. I’ve seen them three times and have a sneaky trip booked to the last performance at the Bush too.

Honourable mention: Al Weaver, The Pride

Beautifully affecting, Weaver has been an actor I’ve had my eye on for a time and so it was pleasing to see him deliver the goods in a major production, opposite Harry Hadden-Paton in Jamie Lloyd’s The Pride.
Brian Cox, The Weir
Benedict Wong, Chimerica

7-10

Richard Clothier, 50 Words; Harry Hadden-Paton, The Pride; Mark Quartley, Armstrong’s War; Ben Whishaw, Mojo

Best Actor in a Musical

Kyle Scatliffe, The Scottsboro Boys

As Scottsboro boy-in-chief Haywood Patterson, Scatliffe personified beautifully the horrendous struggle of the young men who found themselves at the mercy of the justice system in the Deep South. The burden was strong given the under-writing of his compatriots but he delivered intense emotion and fervent conviction that the right thing would eventually happen, in what has to be a career-defining role.

Honourable mention: Declan Bennett, Once the musical

The brooding intensity of Bennett’s Guy fitted the aching romance of Once like a glove, elevating the score from any potential moments of lachrymosity into something subtly beautiful and stirring in its simplicity. 
David Birrell, Sweeney Todd
Nick Hendrix, The Light Princess
Matt Smith, American Psycho
Michael Xavier, The Sound of Music

7-10

Gavin Creel, The Book of Mormon; Fra Fee, Candide; Douglas Hodge, Charlie andthe Chocolate Factory; David Hunter, The Hired Man

2012 Best Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actor in a Play


I imagine Treadaway will be appearing in many award list, both of bloggers and more official awarding bodies, but sometimes the hype is just correct. It’s all the more impressive given that the condition from which his protagonist suffers is never actually named, yet in his hands it doesn’t matter a single jot as the play becomes about a journey through someone else’s eyes, a uniquely different take on life and one which is a genuine pleasure to discover and watch. See it when it transfers.

Honourable mention: Rafe Spall, Constellations
Although my abiding memory of the play is weeping like a buffoon at the end, a close second is the proposal scene(s) in which Spall played and replayed a pre-prepared speech with varying degrees of success as far as the character was concerned, but always superbly affecting to watch and so very easy to connect with.  

Hugh Ross, A Life
Dominic Rowan, A Doll’s House

7-10
Henry Goodman, Arturo Ui; Dominic West, The River; John Hodgkinson, A Walk-on Part; Iain Glen, Uncle Vanya

Best Actor in a Musical

Simon Russell Beale, Privates on Parade
I’ve already taken a bit of stick for this as we’re in ‘play with songs’ territory but to my mind, Privates… is closer to a musical than a play, some of the songs are actually narrative-driven and it’s my blog so my rules. In any case, this was the first time that I came close to actually seeing why people rate Russell Beale so much with a performance that felt essentially so very true in every single aspect.

Honourable mention: Mark Umbers, Merrily We Roll Along
An ineffably charming onstage presence, Umbers was perfectly cast as the central figure whose journey from appealing dreamer to jaded sell-out is the heart of the show and told in reverse, it provided the ideal showcase for his considerable acting skill alongside a powerful voice.

Richard Dempsey, Victor/Victoria
Julian Ovenden, Finding Neverland
Will Young, Cabaret
Dominic West, My Fair Lady

7-10
Michael Xavier, Wonderful Town; Pete Gallagher, A Winter’s Tale; Stephen Ashfield, Boy Meets Boy; Craig Fletcher, Boy Meets Boy

2011 Best Actor in a Play + in a Musical

Best Actor in a Play

Benedict Cumberbatch, Frankenstein

An odd choice given how much I disliked the play itself, but thinking back over the year as a whole, Benedict Cumberbatch really did stick out as one of the best acting performances, in both of the roles in Frankenstein. Initially disappointed that Cumberbatch was the Creature the first time we saw it (previews were a lucky dip in that respect) and recovering from the shock of the unexpected nudity, he overcame our preconceptions with 15 minutes of stunning wordless acting, a physical tour-de-force. I also felt he brought much more to the under-written and under-developed part of Victor Frankenstein, transcending the limitations of Dear’s writing as best he could. Others may disagree but I found him to be the best part about both incarnations of the show and indeed, it was only the promise of his acting that made me go back!

Honourable mention: Andrew Scott, Emperor and Galilean

I don’t think Andrew Scott has got anywhere near enough credit for his Herculean efforts in this show which has to rival Hamlet in its demands from a leading man. This saw Scott grow as an actor, working in nuanced depths into his style and making a genuinely tragic figure out of the Emperor Julian who can’t see the larger picture that his actions are wreaking on his empire.

Trevor Fox, The Pitmen Painters
Dominic West,
Othello
Jude Law,
Anna Christie;
Charles Edwards,
Much Ado About Nothing (Globe)

7-10
John Heffernan, Richard II (Tobacco Factory); Trystan Gravelle, Honest; Dominic Mafham, Journey’s End; Harry Melling, When Did You Last See My Mother

Best Actor in a Musical

Bertie Carvel, Matilda

Well it couldn’t really be anyone else, could it. One of those performances that you just know will become definitive, Bertie Carvel’s Miss Trunchbull is a masterclass in characterisation, a Quentin Blake illustration brought to genius life, and the perfect villain to face off with Matilda. There’s just enough of a tiny glimpse of frailty behind her walls to suggest the necessary chink in the armour but there’s so much fun to be had watching her at her bullying best. A truly must-see performance.

Honourable mention: Michael Ball, Sweeney Todd

Virtually unrecognisable as the demon barber, Michael Ball’s reinvention on the Chichester stage was hugely successful as he portrayed the glowering resentment of the wronged Sweeney Todd with barely repressed menace, sang with great passion and partnered Imelda Staunton like a dream.

Daniel Evans, Company (Crucible)
Daniel Crossley, Me and My Girl
Alastair Brookshaw, Parade
Vincent Franklin, The Day We Sang

7-10
Nigel Lindsay, Shrek the musical; Adam Cooper, Singin’ in the Rain; Jamie Sampson, Guys and Dolls; Joe Maxwell, The Hired Man

2010 Best Actor in a Play & in a Musical

Best Actor in a Play

John Heffernan, Love Love Love
One of those risky occasions when I allowed expectations to rocket sky-high was with Love Love Love, a new play by Mike Bartlett, fast becoming one of my favourite new playwrights, and featuring the delectable John Heffernan, fast becoming one of my favourite actors, to which I ventured to Manchester’s Royal Exchange in order to see it. And fortunately it paid off in dividends with (to my mind at least) a stronger play than Earthquakes in London and anchored by a stunning central performance from Heffernan, anchoring the play in a solid reality that allowed Daniela Denby-Ashe to play off him with huge amounts of fun as his raucous partner but also provided a strong platform for Bartlett to present the counter-case defending the baby boomers. Heffernan managed the leaps in age extremely proficiently, delivered the sharp dialogue well yet still brought a beautiful subtlety to the role: combined with his own turn in the superb After the Dance, mark my words, he really is a name for the future. He will be playing Richard II at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol early next year, I shall of course be there!

Honourable Mention
Benedict Cumberbatch, After the Dance
Before coming to the attention of the nation in a huge way with Stephen Moffat’s Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch has been steadily building a strong reputation for himself which was further continued with this excellent performance in Rattigan’s After the Dance. As the emotionally repressed David, he continued his hedonistic lifestyle, blissfully unaware of the damage he was causing to others around him and seemingly incapable of change: a sterling performance in a cracking production. He is of course taking to the stage at the National again in February in Frankenstein, cross-cast with Jonny Lee Miller as the doctor and the monster.

Jacob Casselden, Tribes
David Suchet, All My Sons
Roger Allam, Henry IV Part I + II
Andrew Scott, Design for Living

7-10
Antony Sher, Broken Glass; Tom Goodman-Hill, Earthquakes in London; Matt Zeremes, Holding the Man; Richard Clothier, Richard III

Best Actor in a Musical

Sam Harrison, Salad Days
For a while John Owen-Jones was in the running for this award for finally making me like the character of Jean Valjean who, despite me loving Les Mis like nothing else, has always been rather annoying to me! But when Salad Days swept me away on a gloomy Sunday afternoon to an altogether happier place and I realised just where I recognised the leading man from, the award moved into Sam Harrison’s hands. For it was he, amongst others, who helped me to fall right back in love with Avenue Q after I had had a bit of overkill, but in an understudy-heavy performance, he reminded why I loved that show so much. And going to see Salad Days with no idea what to expect, he brought his huge likeability to bear in a beautifully old-school take on his character, harking back to musical stars of old with nifty moves, strong pipes and a straight earnestness that was just so refreshing to see. Salad Days continues at the Riverside Studios through February.

Honourable Mention
Jon-Paul Hevey, Once Upon A Time at the Adelphi
Another unexpected pleasure came in Once Upon A Time at the Adelphi which became one of those shows that I texted everyone about as soon as I left the theatre, such was my enjoyment of it. Helped immeasurably by the classically handsome Jon-Paul Hevey (I swear he is a shoo-in for Sex and the City the musical!) as cheeky chappie Thompson and demonstrating the charm and vitality that sustained Alice’s love for such a long time and for good reason.

John Owen-Jones, Les Misérables
Alan Richardson, Iolanthe
Matthew Pidgeon, Midsummer [a play with songs]
Dean Charles Chapman, Billy Elliot The Musical

7-10
Michael Xavier, Love Story; Roger Rowley, The Buddy Holly Story; Lee Greenaway, Just So; Chris Fountain, Departure Lounge

2009 Best Actor in a Play/in a Musical

Best Actor in a Play

Hans Kesting, The Roman Tragedies
As Mark Antony in The Roman Tragedies, Hans Kesting was an intense revelation, a commanding leading man: passionate, rousing and above all virile, his explosive sexual chemistry with Cleopatra genuinely palpable. That he did all of this in Dutch with a newly broken leg, either from a wheelchair or with a crutch, just added to the frisson of excitement. To witness an actor throwing so much of himself into a role and committing so thoroughly was an absolute privilege and one that I truly hope to witness again, in Dutch, English or whatever language he chooses to speak!

Honourable mention
Jude Law, Hamlet

One’s first Hamlet should always be a special one, and I was lucky enough to have had the Talented Mr Law as mine. Having avoided ever seeing it before, I was finally tempted by the Donmar West End’s production. Roundly denounced as a piece of stunt casting long before the first performance and following on from David Tennant’s largely praised run earlier in the year, Jude Law proved his critics seriously wrong with a beautifully impassioned performance, incredibly dark, intense and even morbid at times, I finally understood why it is considered one of ‘the’ roles for an actor to play.

Dominic Rowan, The Spanish Tragedy
David Troughton, Inherit the Wind
Dan Stevens, Arcadia
Henry Goodman, Duet For One

Best Actor in a Musical
Simon Burke, La Cage aux Folles
Playing against John Barrowman in anything might seem like an unenviable task, not least in this pinkest of shows, but Simon Burke was more than equal to the job in matching La Barrowman’s excesses and constantly reminding us of the warm heart beating beneath the feathers and the spangles of this show. Redefining the central relationship was a necessity due to the younger ages of this iteration of the cast and it was interesting to see the sexual dynamic between the two played up, there was no question who wore the trousers on top of this relationship though, Burke’s Georges was wickedly comic and flirtatious and ultimately highly watchable.

Honourable mention
Carl Mullaney, Frank’s Closet
Switching effortlessly between a fine selection of divas and belting out their classics may seem like a regular gig for many a drag act or gay karaoke night, but nowhere was it done with more panache than at the delightful Hoxton Hall in Frank’s Closet by Carl Mullaney. Lightning quick changes, a strong mellifluous voice, this was also an incredible demonstration of physical theatre in how he captured the different mannerisms and movements of each of the divas.

Roger Allam, La Cage aux Folles
Mark Umbers, Sweet Charity
Aneurin Barnard, Spring Awakening
Tony Sheldon, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert