For more articles on the 2014 Helpmann Awards check out the Sydney Morning Herald//WA Today
Opera Australia runs rings around rivals at 2014 Helpmann awards
Melbourne Ring Cycle and King and I win big, while Sweet Charity beats out Baz Lurhmann’s Strictly Ballroom and Cate Blanchett and Richard Roxburgh take main acting awards
A $20m production of Richard Wagner’s 20 hour Ring of the Nibelung, by Opera Australia, was the biggest winner at the 2014 Helpmann awards for live entertainment on Monday evening.
The Melbourne Ring Cycle swept the opera category awards, including the best opera award, with Warwick Fyfe picking up best male performer and Finnish conductor Pietari Inkinen winning for best music direction. Both were last minute replacements and named “among the real successes of this Rheingold” by Guardian critic Andrew Clements.
Presented to sell-out crowds at Arts Centre Melbourne in the bicentenary year of the composer’s birth, Neil Armfield’s production drew parallels between Wagner’s tidal waves of power and magic and contemporary forces of economic and environmental disaster.
At the other end of the budget, the musical Sweet Charity, which played in Sydney’s tiny 110-seat Hayes theatre, won three awards, beating Baz Luhrmann’s high-profile but poorly reviewed Strictly Ballroom, whose award haul was limited to best female supporting actor in a musical for Heather Mitchell. Sweet Charity took awards for choreography and direction, with Verity Hunt-Ballard winning best female actor in a musical.
Best musical went to The King and I, which picked up three awards, representing another big win for Opera Australia and co-producer John Frost. Frost was also recognised for his lifetime contribution to the industry with the JC Williamson Award.
Two high profile film actors in different Sydney Theatre Company productions featured on the winners list. Cate Blanchett was awarded best female actor in a play for The Maids, currently playing in New York, and best actor when to Waiting For Godot’s Richard Roxburgh, whose co-star Luke Mullins was also named best supporting male actor.
Guardian critic Vicky Frost called Mullins’ portrayal of Lucky “first rate” in the play, with the actor capturing “both the horror of his existence and the slapstick potential”. Mullins also featured in the winner of best play, Belvoir St’s production of the modern classic, Angels in America, another marathon viewing at seven hours.
The Australian Ballet’s Chroma won best dance work, with best male dancer going to James Vu Anh Pham in 247 Days (Chunky Move) and best female dancer to Charmene Yap in Interplay’s 2 in D Minor (Sydney Dance Company).
Best regional touring production went to Jack Charles v the Crown (The Ilbijerri theatre company and Performing Lines) which explored the indefatigable actor’s years of life experience, from survivor of the stolen generations to heroin addict, thief, “grandfather of Indigenous theatre” and Koori elder and activist.
The ceremony took place on the set of previous Helpmann winner The Lion King, at Sydney’s Capitol theatre. Highlights from the show, along with a preview of Cameron Mackintosh’s new production of Les Misérables were also performed.
In a Sydney Morning Herald article, several critics accused the Helpmann awards of a lack of support for independent theatre and the concentration of nominations given to Sydney and Melbourne shows. The piece also put a question mark over the legitimacy of giving best special event to one of the award’s major sponsors. In a category without nominations, Destination NSW won the award for 2013’s Vivid Sydney.
Speaking on behalf of event organisers, Live Performance Australia, chief executive Evelyn Richardson said: “They can’t influence or input the discussions in any of the award categories. It’s an independent process.’’
Winners in full
Best opera The Melbourne Ring Cycle (Opera Australia)
Best play Angels In America (Belvoir)
Best ballet or dance work Chroma (The Australian Ballet)
Best musical The King and I (Opera Australia and John Frost)
Best male actor in a play Richard Roxburgh for Waiting For Godot (Sydney Theatre Company)
Best female actor in a play Cate Blanchett for The Maids (Sydney Theatre Company)
Best male actor in a supporting role in a play Luke Mullins for Waiting for Godot (Sydney Theatre Company)
Best female actor in a supporting role in a play Robyn Nevin for Angels In America (Belvoir)
Best male actor in a musical Craig McLachlan for Richard O’Brien’s Rocky Horror Show (Howard Panter for Ambassador Theatre Group & John Frost)
Best female actor in a musical Verity Hunt-Ballard for Sweet Charity (Luckiest Productions & Neil Gooding Productions in association with Hayes Theatre Co.)
Best male actor in a supporting role in a musical Reg Livermore for Wicked (Marc Platt, David Stone, Universal Pictures, The Araca Group, Jon B. Platt, John Frost)
Best female actor in a supporting role in a musical Heather Mitchell for Strictly Ballroom The Musical (Global Creatures)
Best male performer in an opera Terje Stensvold for The Melbourne Ring Cycle (Opera Australia)
Best female performer in an opera Christine Goerke for Elektra (Sydney Symphony Orchestra)
Best male performer in a supporting role in an opera Warwick Fyfe for The Melbourne Ring Cycle (Opera Australia)
Best female performer in a supporting role in an opera Jacqueline Dark for The Melbourne Ring Cycle (Opera Australia)
Best male dancer in a dance or physical theatre work James Vu Anh Pham for 247 Days (Chunky Move)
Best female dancer in a dance or physical theatre work Charmene Yap for 2 in D Minor as part of Interplay (Sydney Dance Company)
Best comedy performer Sam Simmons for Sam Simmons – Death Of A Sails-Man (Token Events)
Best cabaret performer Sarah Ward for Yana Alana Between The Cracks (Ebony Bott at fortyfivedownstairs)
Best international contemporary concert Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band 2014 (Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band & Frontier Touring)
Best contemporary music festival Bluesfest Byron Bay 2014 (Bluesfest)
Best Australian contemporary concert Hunters & Collectors (Hunters & Collectors, Frontier Touring and Roundhouse Entertainment)
Best choreography in a dance or physical theatre work Stephanie Lake for A Small Prometheus (Melbourne Festival, Arts House and Insite Arts)
Best choreography in a musical Andrew Hallsworth for Sweet Charity (Luckiest Productions & Neil Gooding Productions in association with Hayes Theatre Co.)
Best direction of a musical Dean Bryant for Sweet Charity (Luckiest Productions & Neil Gooding Productions in association with Hayes Theatre Co.)
Best Direction of an Opera Neil Armfield for The Melbourne Ring Cycle (Opera Australia)
Best direction of a play Michael Kantor for The Shadow King (Malthouse Theatre in association with the Confederation of Australian International Arts Festivals -Adelaide Festival, Brisbane Festival, Melbourne Festival, Perth International Arts Festival and Sydney Festival)
Best original score Iain Grandage for When Time Stops (Expressions Dance Company and Queensland Performing Arts Centre in association with Brisbane Festival)
Best individual classical music performance Julia Lezhneva for Julia Lezhneva with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra (Hobart Baroque)
Best chamber and/or instrumental ensemble concert The Jerusalem Project (Melbourne Recital Centre and Sydney Opera House)
Best symphony orchestra concert Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (Arts Centre Melbourne, Perth Concert Hall, Queensland Performing Arts Centre and Sydney Opera House)
Best music direction Pietari Inkinen for The Melbourne Ring Cycle (Opera Australia)
Best regional touring production Jack Charles V The Crown (ILBIJERRI Theatre Company toured by Performing Lines)
Best presentation for children Pinocchio (Windmill Theatre & State Theatre Company of South Australia)
Best new Australian work Rosemary Myers with Julianne O’Brien for Pinocchio (Windmill Theatre & State Theatre Company of South Australia)
Best visual or physical theatre production Whelping Box (Branch Nebula, Matt Prest & Clare Britton, produced by Intimate Spectacle & Performing Lines, presented by Performance Space & Arts House)
Best costume design Roger Kirk for The King and I (Opera Australia and John Frost)
Best scenic design Gabriela Tylesova for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Sydney Theatre Company)
Best lighting design Nick Schlieper for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead (Sydney Theatre Company)
Best sound design Michael Waters for The King and I (Opera Australia and John Frost)