The ceremony, to be broadcast live on BBC Radio 2 with additional live on-demand coverage on BBC TV, includes a tribute to the composer with a cast that features Adrian Lester, who played Bobby in the last West End revival of Company that transferred to the Albery Theatre (now the Coward) from the Donmar Warehouse.
The Special Award is chosen by the board of the Society of London Theatres, and over the years there have been a total of 24 recipients, including Sir Alec Guinness, Dame Judi Dench, Sam Mendes, Sir Peter Hall and Lord Olivier himself.
This year's ceremony is being hosted by Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton, themselves both former Olivier Award winners, with performers due to appear including Barry Manilow alongside West End leading lady Kerry Ellis.
Dance companies Thick Skin and Zoo Nation were commissioned to create choreography especially for the awards show, and there will be highlights from all the nominated musicals, including Sweet Charity, Into the Woods, Love Story, Fela!, Legally Blonde, Passion and Love Never Dies. All the musical tributes, including special star performances, will be accompanied by the 72-strong BBC Concert Orchestra, under the musical direction of David Charles Abell, with original music and orchestrations provided by Larry Blank.
Amongst the line-up of those presenting awards are Benedict Cumberbatch, Anne-Marie Duff, Matthew Fox, Elisabeth Moss, Rupert Everett, Mark Gatiss, Amanda Holden, Jonny Lee Miller, Elaine Paige, Tamara Rojo, Patrick Stewart , Danielle Hope, Rachel Tucker and Olivia Williams. Nominations for the 2011 Olivier Awards, recognizing excellence in London theatre, were announced Feb. 7. The 2011 Olivier nominees are:
Tracie Bennett for End of the Rainbow
Nancy Carroll for After the Dance
Tamsin Greig for The Little Dog Laughed
Sophie Thompson for Clybourne Park
Best New Musical
Legally Blonde – The Musical
Love Never Dies
Dominic Cooke for Clybourne Park
Howard Davies for The White Guard
Michael Grandage for King Lear
Thea Sharrock for After the Dance
Best Actor in a Musical
Alex Gaumond for Legally Blonde – The Musical
Ramin Karimloo for Love Never Dies
Sahr Ngaujah for Fela!
Michael Xavier for Love Story
Best New Opera Production
English National Opera and Young Vic’s Elegy for Young Lovers at the Young Vic
De Nederlandse Opera, English National Opera and Complicité's A Dog's Heart at the London Coliseum
Royal Opera, Vienna State Opera, San Francisco Opera, the Liceu, Barcelona and Opéra Bastille's Adriana Lecouvreur at the Royal Opera House
OperaUpClose and Soho Theatre's La Bohème at Soho Theatre
Best New Dance Production
Mambo 3XX1 by Danza Contemporanea de Cuba choreographed by George Cespedes at Sadler's Wells
Babel (Words) by Eastman vzw and Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie choreographed by Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Damien Jalet at Sadler's Wells
Cinderella by New Adventures choreographed by Matthew Bourne at Sadler's Wells
The Society of London Theatre (SOLT) also announced a three-year partnership with MasterCard that will provide major investment in the development of the global profile of the Olivier Awards. The Best Play Award is now called the Mastercard Best New Play Award.
This year also sees the return of the Radio 2 Audience Award, renamed as the BBC Radio 2 Olivier Audience Award, in which members of the public are able to vote for their favorite long-running production from a shortlist of 18 shows. Elaine Paige will present the Award at the ceremony with the cast from last year's winning show Wicked.