The Oliviers has proved that even at 76 Andrew Lloyd Webber is still the best in town

Nicole Scherzinger as Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, Savoy Theatre, London, 2023
Best in class: Nicole Scherzinger was one of seven Oliver Award wins for Sunset Boulevard - Marc Brenner

The 2024 Olivier Awards delivered the shock of the old, and put a smile on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s face. A mighty seven awards for Sunset Boulevard confirmed that – at the age of 76 and more than 50 years after Jesus Christ Superstar stormed the Palace – the world’s most successful musicals composer still has what it takes to Lord it over the West End and show the kids how it’s done, even with a musical from 1993.

Of course, the initial credit for Sunset Boulevard sweeping the boards – its haul rivalling the record for a musical set by Matilda, and matched by Hamilton and Cabaret – must go to Jamie Lloyd. His visionary direction dared to strip back Lloyd Webber’s adaptation (with Don Black and Christopher Hampton) of Billy Wilder’s classic 1950 film noir. Relying mainly on busy choreography and video wizardry - as opposed to palatial Hollywood opulence - was the perfect revitalising touch, fusing theatrical imagination with an austere sense of cinematic surprise.

Lloyd was vindicated too in casting Nicole Scherzinger as the reclusive silent screen star Norma Desmond. The singer initially seemed too unblemished for the femme fatale, but as with Lloyd’s nose-free Cyrano, he’d had a revelatory idea: Norma’s freakishness was in the eyes of others, her obsolescence a product of the industry.

The primary vindication, though, lies with Lloyd Webber himself – who endured brickbats and upsets when Sunset was in the West End first time round, with rewrites required early on and no Olivier Awards. In fact, when you compare the haul this year to Lloyd Webber’s previous wins - even Phantom only picked up a couple – you realise that this production now not only has the wind in its sails as it heads to Broadway, but the show stands confirmed as one of ALW’s best.

A bonanza is good for headlines, and, sure, there’s a sense of the industry patting their man on the back for all his past good works. But people aren’t paying lip-service to his status; as witnessed in the past decade with Lloyd’s Evita and Timothy Sheader’s Jesus Christ Superstar, both radical takes at Regent’s Park, the next generation want to reimagine that gilded back-catalogue, embrace his legacy.

Still, there’s no shortage of British talent queuing up behind him. The award for Best New Musical rightly went to runaway sensation Operation Mincemeat, a springy account of wartime subterfuge by SpitLip, with Jak Malone getting a deserved supporting role gong for sounding the show’s most poignant notes as MI5 secretary Hester Leggatt (who now has a plaque at the Fortune Theatre).

Elsewhere, there were strong contenders for Best New Play. Jack Thorne’s The Motive and the Cue was an obvious contender but with Mark Gatiss scooping the Best Actor award for his pitch-perfect evocation of John Gielgud, that left the goal open for James Graham’s Dear England, which turned the gentlemanly reboot of Gareth Southgate’s tenure as England manager into a fleet, fun, state-of-the-nation epic. Nice for Harry Kane – in the guise of Will Close (Best Actor in a Supporting Role) – to finally win something, too.

If Close’s teasing impersonation raises a smile, it’s hard not to go misty-eyed over the counterpart supporting actress award, which went to the late Haydn Gwynne: Stanley Baldwin in Jack Thorne’s play about Churchill, Reith and the General Strike. Nominated four times before, how sad she didn’t get to see her belated win. That puts into perspective the fact that Sheridan Smith – battered after those early closing notices for Opening Night – didn’t walk away with the Best Actress award for Shirley Valentine. Shezza will live to fight another day and surely wow fans again in her own inimitable way.

The 2024 Olivier Award winners in full

Best Director
WINNER: Jamie Lloyd for Sunset Boulevard
Stephen Daldry & Justin Martin for Stranger Things: The First Shadow 
Rupert Goold for Dear England 
Sam Mendes for The Motive and The Cue

Best Actress
WINNER: Sarah Snook for The Picture of Dorian Gray
Laura Donnelly for The Hills of California
Sophie Okonedo for Medea
Sarah Jessica Parker for Plaza Suite
Sheridan Smith for Shirley Valentine

Best Actor
WINNER: Mark Gatiss for The Motive and the Cue
Joseph Fiennes for Dear England 
James Norton for A Little Life 
Andrew Scott for Vanya 
David Tennant for Macbeth

Best New Play
WINNER: Dear England by James Graham
The Hills of California by Jez Butterworth 
The Motive and the Cue by Jack Thorne 
Till The Stars Come Down by Beth Steel

Best New Musical
WINNER: Operation Mincemeat, music, lyrics & book by David Cumming, Felix Hagan, Natasha
Hodgson & Zoë Roberts
The Little Big Things, music by Nick Butcher, lyrics by Nick Butcher & Tom Ling, book by Joe
Next To Normal, music by Tom Kitt, book & lyrics by Brian Yorkey 
A Strange Loop, music, lyrics & book by Michael R. Jackson

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
WINNER: Will Close for Dear England
Paul Hilton for An Enemy of the People
Giles Terera for Clyde’s
Luke Thompson for A Little Life
Zubin Varla for A Little Life

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
WINNER: Haydn Gwynne for When Winston Went to War With the Wireless
Lorraine Ashbourne for Till The Stars Come Down
Priyanga Burford for An Enemy of the People
Gina McKee for Dear England
Tanya Reynolds for A Mirror

Best Actor in a Musical
WINNER: Tom Francis for Sunset Boulevard
David Cumming for Operation Mincemeat 
Daniel Mays for Guys & Dolls
Charlie Stemp for Crazy For You

Best Actress in a Musical
WINNER: Nicole Scherzinger for Sunset Boulevard 
Natasha Hodgson for Operation Mincemeat 
Caissie Levy for Next To Normal 
Marisha Wallace for Guys & Dolls

Best Actress in a Supporting Role In a Musical
WINNER: Amy Trigg for The Little Big Things
Grace Hodgett Young for Sunset Boulevard
Zoë Roberts for Operation Mincemeat
Eleanor Worthington-Cox for Next To Normal

Best Actor in a Supporting Role In a Musical
WINNER: Jak Malone for Operation Mincemeat
Cedric Neal for Guys & Dolls
David Thaxton for Sunset Boulevard
Jack Wolfe for Next To Normal

Best New Entertainment or Comedy Play
WINNER: Stranger Things: The First Shadow by Kate Trefry
Accidental Death Of An Anarchist by Dario Fo & Franca Rame, adapted by Tom Basden
Stephen Sondheim’s Old Friends, music & lyrics by Stephen Sondheim
Vardy V Rooney: The Wagatha Christie Trial, adapted by Liv Hennessy

Best Revival
WINNER: Vanya by Anton Chekhov, adapted by Simon Stephens
The Effect by Lucy Prebble
Macbeth by William Shakespeare
Shirley Valentine by Willy Russell

Best Musical Revival
WINNER: Sunset Boulevard, music by Andrew Lloyd Webber, lyrics & book by Don Black &
Christopher Hampton
Groundhog Day, music & lyrics by Tim Minchin, book by Danny Rubin
Guys & Dolls, music & lyrics by Frank Loesser, book by Jo Swerling & Abe Burrows
Hadestown, music, lyrics & book by Anaïs Mitchell

Best Family Show
WINNER: Dinosaur World Live by Derek Bond
Bluey’s Big Play by Joe Brumm
The House With Chicken Legs, book by Sophie Anderson, adapted by Oliver Lansley
The Smeds And The Smoos, book by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler, adapted by Tall

Best Theatre Choreographer
WINNER: Arlene Phillips with James Cousins for Guys & Dolls
Fabian Aloise for Sunset Boulevard
Ellen Kane & Hannes Langolf for Dear England
Mark Smith for The Little Big Things
Susan Stroman for Crazy For You

Best Costume Design
WINNER: Marg Horwell for The Picture Of Dorian Grayy
Bunny Christie & Deborah Andrews for Guys & Dolls
Ryan Dawson Laight for La Cage Aux Folles
Hugh Durrant for Peter Pan

Best Sound Design
WINNER: Adam Fisher for Sunset Boulevard
Paul Arditti for Stranger Things: The First Shadow
Dan Balfour & Tom Gibbons for Dear England 
Gareth Fry for Macbeth

Outstanding Musical Contribution
WINNER: Alan Williams for Musical Supervision & Musical Direction for Sunset Boulevard
Tom Brady for Musical Supervision & Arrangements and Charlie Rosen for Orchestrations for
Guys & Dolls
Matt Brind for Musical Supervision, Arrangements & Orchestrations for Just For One Day
Steve Sidwell for Orchestrations & Joe Bunker for Musical Direction for Operation Mincemeat

Best Set Design
WINNER: Miriam Buether for Set Design & 59 Productions for Video Design for Stranger
Things: The First Shadow
Bunny Christie for Set Design for Guys & Dolls
Es Devlin for Set Design & Ash J Woodward for Video Design for Dear England
Soutra Gilmour for Set Design and Nathan Amzi & Joe Ransom for Video Design for Sunset

Best Lighting Design
WINNER: Jack Knowles for Sunset Boulevard
Jon Clark for Dear England
Jon Clark for Stranger Things: The First Shadow
Paule Constable for Guys & Dolls

Best New Opera Production
WINNER: Innocence by the Royal Opera
Blue by the English National Opera
Picture A Day Like This by the Royal Opera
The Rhinegold by the English National Opera

Outstanding Achievement in Opera
WINNER: Antonio Pappano for his role as Musical Director of the Royal Opera House
Belarus Free Theatre Company for King Stakh’s Wild Hunt at the Barbican Theatre
Marina Abramović for her concept and design of 7 Deaths Of Maria Callas at the London

Best New Dance Production
WINNER: La Ruta by Gabriela Carrizo, part of Nederlands Dans Theater 
Broken Chord by Gregory Maqoma & Thuthuka Sibisi
The Rite Of Spring by Seeta Patel 
Time Spell by Michelle Dorrance, Jillian Meyers & Tiler Peck, part of Turn It Out With Tiler Peck
& Friends

Outstanding Achievement in Dance
WINNER: Isabela Coracy for her performance in NINA: By Whatever Means, part of Ballet
Black: Pioneers at the Barbican Theatre
Jonzi D for his artistic direction of Breakin’ Convention 2023 International Festival Of Hip Hop
Dance Theatre at Sadler’s Wells
Rhiannon Faith for her community focussed conception of Lay Down Your Burdens at The Pit at

Outstanding Achievement in Affiliate Theatre
WINNER: Sleepova by Matilda Feyişayo at the Bush Theatre
Blue Mist by Mohamed-Zain Dada at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre
A Playlist For The Revolution by AJ Yi at the Bush Theatre
The Swell by Isley Lynn at the Orange Tree Theatre
The Time Machine: A Comedy by Steven Canny and John Nicholson at the Park Theatre