The Stage Debut Theatre Awards 2020

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Photo Credit: The Stage // @TheStage on Twitter

At a time when many theatre lovers have been starved of live entertainment, The Stage has swooped in to give us a much needed dose of all things theatre. The Debut Awards, the only celebration on the UK theatre scene to congratulate breakthrough talent, will be live-streamed for free viewing on Sunday 27th December. 

If you tune in on Sunday, you can see the likes of Robbie Williams, Aimee Lou Wood, and Shan Ako, who are nominated for various awards. After over six months of a dark West End, I am thrilled to see some life being breathed back into the theatre industry- and what better way to do it then celebrating the newest stars, thus empowering young talent to know that success is possible even in these trying times?

The cast and creatives of West End’s Dear Evan Hansen have taken over this years shortlist with the most nominations, two of which are credited to leading man Sam Tutty who is up for ‘Best West End Debut Performer’. He is also competing with his co-star Lucy Anderson for ‘Best Performer in a Musical.’ Benj Pasek, Justin Paul and Steven Leveson – the composer, lyricist and book writer behind this excellent production – have also gained a nomination for ‘Best Creative West End Debut’. 

In comparison to recent years, it seems that the number of awards on offer has been reduced. There doesn’t seem to be a clear explanation for this, but I suspect that the COVID-19 pandemic and shortened judging period are to account for the missing awards. In a progressive move, The Stage have consolidated last year’s ‘Best Actor,’ and ‘Best Actress,’ into the more gender-neutral ‘Best Performer.’

The eligibility criteria for The Stage Debut Awards states that actors must have made their theatre debut between August 1, 2019 and July 31, 2020 in order to be nominated, as well as confirming that actors who have previously worked in any other medium may be considered. Therefore, it is not a surprise to see names such as Robbie Williams and David Mitchell. However, I do think it’s important to direct more attention or commendation towards those who have not yet ‘made a name for themselves,’ in the wider acting world, in order to give them a boost which is much-needed given the rather bleak outlook for the theatre industry right now. For example, young talents such as Sam Tutty and Lucy Anderson who were cast in Dear Evan Hansen straight out of drama school, with Anderson starring in opening night before even graduating, should be what this celebration is all about. To ensure the theatre industry stays alive and kicking, I think it imperative that we continue to support and nurture new talent in this way.

My personal favourite nominations include Shan Ako, who floored me with her rendition of ‘On My Own,’ as Eponine in the Staged Concert Version of Les Miserables, the book writer for &Juliet, David West Read, who deserves high praise for creating such an innovative twist on a well-worn story. 

Of course, for now, this is all speculation- but I am very excited to tune in on Sunday to see if my favourites can succeed amongst such a talented group of performers and creatives, and I thoroughly encourage you to do the same! 

The awards ceremony can be streamed for free on The Stage website and their Facebook page from 7pm on Sunday 26th September.

The full shortlist is as follows:

Best Performer in a Play

Sponsored by Audible.

• Saida Ahmed for Little Miss Burden at the Bunker, London

• Katie Erich for Oliver Twist at Leeds Playhouse

• Brooklyn Melvin for Oliver Twist at Leeds Playhouse

• Daniel Monks for Teenage Dick at the Donmar Warehouse

• Rachel Nwokoro for Little Baby Jesus at the Orange Tree Theatre

• Jessica Rhodes for The Sugar Syndrome at the Orange Tree Theatre

• Khai Shaw for Little Baby Jesus at the Orange Tree Theatre

• Bobby Stallwood for Faith, Hope and Charity at the National Theatre

Best Performer in a Musical

• Shan Ako for Les Misérables at the Sondheim Theatre

• Lucy Anderson for Dear Evan Hansen at the Noël Coward Theatre

• Chase Brown for Mame at the Hope Mill Theatre

• Oli Higginson for The Last Five Years at the Southwark Playhouse

• Adriana Ivelisse for West Side Story at Curve

• Tom Noyes for Preludes at the Southwark Playhouse

• Bethany Tennick for Islander at the Southwark Playhouse

• Sam Tutty for Dear Evan Hansen at the Noël Coward Theatre

Best Director

Sponsored by Smith & Williamson.

• Georgia Green for The Mikvah Project at the Orange Tree Theatre

• Martha Kiss Perrone for When It Breaks It Burns at the Battersea Arts Centre

• Alex Sutton for Preludes at the Southwark Playhouse

Best Designer

Sponsored by Robe Lighting.

• Liam Bunster (set and costume) for The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare’s Globe

• Andrew Exeter (lighting) for High Fidelity at the Turbine Theatre

• Rose Revitt (set and costume) for Dr Korczak’s Example at Leeds Playhouse

Best Composer or Lyricist

• Jim Barne and Kit Buchan for The Season at the New Wolsey Theatre

• Jherek Bischoff for The Ocean at the End of the Lane at the National Theatre

• Robbie Williams for The Boy in the Dress at the Royal Shakespeare Company

Best Writer

• Samuel Bailey for Shook at the Southwark Playhouse

• Mari Izzard for Hela at The Other Room

• Eleanor Tindall for Before I Was a Bear at The Bunker

• Temi Wilkey for The High Table at the Bush Theatre

Best West End Debut Performer (voted for by the public)

Sponsored by Trafalgar Entertainment.

• Shan Ako for Les Misérables at the Sondheim Theatre

• David Mitchell for The Upstart Crow at the Gielgud Theatre

• Daniel Monks for Teenage Dick at the Donmar Warehouse

• Samantha Pauly for Evita at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

• Wendell Pierce for Death of a Salesman at the Piccadilly Theatre

• Sam Tutty for Dear Evan Hansen at the Noël Coward Theatre

• Aimee Lou Wood for Uncle Vanya at the Harold Pinter Theatre

Best Creative West End Debut 

Sponsored by the Noël Coward Foundation.

• Fabian Aloise (choreographer) for Evita at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre

• Nadia Latif (director) for Fairview at the Young Vic Theatre

• Benj Pasek, Justin Paul and Steven Levenson (composer, lyricist & book) for Dear Evan Hansen at the Noël Coward Theatre

• Femi Temowo (composer) for Death of a Salesman at the Piccadilly Theatre and for Three Sisters at the National Theatre

• David West Read (book) for & Juliet at the Shaftesbury Theatre

Words by Matilda Head.


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