The final pieces of the 1998 Laurence Olivier Awards fell into place last night (23 February) during the BBC 2 television broadcast of the ceremony. Two awards - Best New Comedy and Outstanding Musical Production - were withheld during last Monday's live ceremony so that the winners could be surprised on camera. Now announced, the winners are, respectively: Ben Elton's Popcorn and Chicago. Popcorn beat out Ayub Khan-Din's East is East and Martin McDonagh's A Skull in Connemara, both at the Royal Court. Comedian and actor Hugh Laurie, who appeared in Elton's 1991 West End Comedy Gasping, presented the award to the cast and playwright following a performance of Popcorn at the Apollo Theatre. The presentation was greeted with a rapturous standing ovation from the evening's audience. Elton said, on accepting, "I'll start by thanking Noel Coward because, when I was 12 or 13, I read Sheridan Morley's biography of Coward, A Talent to Amuse, and from that moment on, I dreamt of having a hit play running on Shaftesbury Avenue."
In similar fashion, Dame Edna Everage appeared on stage at the Adelphi following curtain call to present the Outstanding Musical Production award to the Chicago cast. The Kander and Ebb musical beat out competition from Damn Yankees, also formerly at the Adelphi, and the Open Air Theatre's summer revival of Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate. The American producers of the show were on hand to extend the co-creators' personal thanks to director Walter Bobbie, choreographer Ann Reinking and "the ensemble of stars and musicians, the like of which London has never seen, this wonderful company." Ute Lemper, co-star of the show with Ruthie Henshall, had earlier taken home her own Olivier statue for Best Actress in a Musical for her Chicago role as murderess Velma Kelly.