Sonia Friedman, who this year topped the annual Stage 100 list of those deemed to be the most influential people in British theatre by the British weekly trade newspaper The Stage, has now also been named Producer of the Year by the industry publication's annual The Stage Awards, presented January 27 in a lunchtime ceremony at the West End's Theatre Royal, Drury Lane.
Currently represented in the West End by Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, the first-ever London production of Dreamgirls, and the transfers of Nice Fish (from the Guthrie in Minneapolis and BAM) and American Repertory Theatre's production of The Glass Menagerie (from Broadway), Friedman has won the award for the third year in a row.
In a citation, Friedman was said to have “defended her title in some style, producing indisputably the biggest opening of the year: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Her masterstroke has been making it a genuine extension of the Potter narrative, with a new story, rather than a straightforward page-to-stage adaptation. The show has been a monster hit as well as a critical triumph and looks set to join the ranks of West End long-runners such as The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables.” She was also cited for Dreamgirls, Nice Fish, Funny Girl, Sunny Afternoon, Bend it Like Beckham, King Charles III on tour, and The Book of Mormon, with the citation stating, “One of the few producers to straddle musical theatre and plays and to boast as strong a reputation for artistic taste as commercial acumen, her output— both in volume and quality—is extraordinary.” Also shortlisted were Fiery Angel and Kenny Wax Productions.
Sheffield Theatres, whose production of Show Boat transferred to the West End in 2016 and whose production at its home theatre of a new musical Flowers for Mrs. Harris was named Best Musical at the U.K. Theatre Awards, was named Regional Theatre of the Year, also for the third time (though not consecutively). Also shortlisted were the Bristol Old Vic and Colchester's Mercury Theatre.
Regent's Park Open Air Theatre was named London Theatre of the Year, “staging some of the most talked about work of the year” in the words of its citation; the venue offered a production of Henry V starring actress Michelle Terry in the title role and a new production of Jesus Christ Superstar that will return to the theatre this summer. Also shortlisted were the Menier Chocolate Factory and the Old Vic Theatre.
Other winners include London's New Diorama (named Fringe Theatre of the Year; also shortlisted were Manchester's Hope Mill Theatre and London's Hope Theatre), pop-up venue King’s Cross Theatre (the London home to Lazarus and the Donmar Warehouse's all-female Shakespeare trilogy that was named Theatre Building of the Year), Matthew Bourne's New Adventures (winner of the International Award for its extensive touring program that saw it visiting Seoul, Singapore, Beijing, Tokyo, and Shanghai with its recent production of Sleeping Beauty, reaching an audience of more than 70,000), Tara Arts (whose new home in Earslfield in South West London won the Sustainability Award), and Complicite (recently seen on Broadway with The Encounter, which won it the Innovation Award).
Finally, Old Vic stage door keeper Ned Seago was named Unsung Hero of the Year, with Matthew Warchus, that theatre's artistic director, declaring of him, “From an early morning welcome to a late night farewell he is a beacon of calm unruffled authority. He always provokes a smile and is unfailingly sensitive, kind, discrete, loyal and supportive.”
In a press statement, The Stage print editor Alistair Smith commended the winners, stating, “The Stage Awards are the only awards that celebrate theatre of all scales, from all four corners of the UK and across the globe. Our winners range from Sonia Friedman—the West End’s leading producer—to the New Diorama, a fringe theatre that has made a name for itself by supporting and championing emerging talent at the very start of their careers.”