Exploring the extraordinary range of craft and collaboration that goes into creating award-winning plays, musicals and productions, it will be a free and immersive theatrical experience taking visitors from the stage, to the design workshops and through the history of the awards to the red carpet. It is being jointly curated by the V&A and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, and will draw on both of their extensive collections, supplemented with key loans from private collections.
Highlights will include original costume designs from The Phantom of the Opera by Maria Bjornson (1986), shown alongside the costume worn by a recent West End Phantom; a selection of golden top hats from A Chorus Line, which won both the Tony Award (1976) and the inaugural Olivier Award (1976) for Best New Musical; a tunic worn by Rudolf Nureyev in Romeo and Juliet, which won the Olivier in 1977; and Dame Helen Mirren's dress designed by Bob Crowley and worn in The Audience, a role which she won both an Olivier (2013) and Tony Award (2015) for Best Actress. The exhibition will also feature the set models for Matilda the Musical, an RSC musical which won seven Olivier Awards and five Tony Awards, designed by Rob Howell, as well as models from the National Theatre's award-winning production War Horse (2007). On display for the first time in the U.K. will be set models for the New York productions of Carousel (1994) and Sunday in the Park with George (1983).
In addition, film clips from notable theatre productions from the V&A's National Video Archive of Performance (NVAP) and the NYPL's Theatre on Film and Tape archive (TOFT) will be embedded throughout.
In a press statement, Mirren commented, "Having worked on both Broadway and the West End, I am delighted that Curtain Up, marking 40 years since the Olivier Awards were inaugurated, honors the shared artistic heritage binding London and New York and showcases the wealth of creative talent that brings great productions to the stage on both sides of the Atlantic."
The exhibition is being presented as part of a year-long program of activity organized by SOLT to celebrate 40 years of the Olivier Awards (1976-2016), awarded annually to recognize excellence in professional theatre in London. According to press materials, the exhibition "will consider the central role the West End and Broadway have in London and New York today as well as exploring the evolution of these two transatlantic theatre cities. A spotlight on the awards will reveal how they have developed since their inception and how an entire company – from back-of-house to centre stage – contribute to an award-winning production including such material as correspondence and production material relating to the original production of Evita. Script-writing, production, direction, design (lighting, sound, set, and costume), music, choreography and the evolution of technology will all be considered."
For more information on the V&A, visit http://www.vam.ac.uk. For the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, visit http://www.nypl.org/locations/divisions/billy-rose-theatre-division.