TV preview: Olivier Awards

Gemma Arterton & Stephen Mangan Olivier 2014 hosts.

Gemma Arterton & Stephen Mangan Olivier 2014 hosts.

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The movie stars have had their fun at the Baftas, the Oscars, the Golden Globes... frankly, the list goes on.

So, surely no one will begrudge the leading lights of the British theatre their chance to take centre stage, as ITV brings us highlights from The Olivier Awards.

The ceremony takes place at the Royal Opera House, and is presented by Gemma Arterton and Stephen Mangan, with a voiceover provided by Julie Walters, and appearances by stars including Michael Ball, Kristin Davis, Nigel Harman, Gok Wan, Lesley Sharpe and Samantha Barks.

It’s little wonder the big names are out in force – while they may not always have got as much press coverage as their Hollywood equivalents, the Oliviers do have an impressive history.

The awards were first held in 1976, when they were officially known as the Society of the West End Theatre Awards, and affectionately called the Urnies, due to the fact that the winners received specially commissioned Wedgwood urns.

They were renamed in honour of Laurence Olivier in 1984, and tonight’s victors will be taking home miniature busts of the actor in costume as Shakespeare’s Henry V.

That might be a good omen for one of this year’s nominees, Jude Law, who has received a Best Actor nod for his performance in the same iconic role.

But he faces stiff competition from Henry Goodman in The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui, Tom Hiddleston for Coriolanus, and Rory Kinnear, who played the villainous Iago in Othello.

The Best Actress category contains a woman who is no stranger to the Oliviers – Judi Dench, who has been nominated for Peter and Alice. In 1996, she ‘did the double’, and scooped Best Actress and Best Actress in a Musical. She’s only up for one gong tonight, but she’s competing against Hayley Atwell (The Pride), Anna Chancellor (Private Lives) and Lesley Manville (Ghosts).

Elsewhere musicals are very much dominating the proceedings. Not only are the new stage adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and the revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along leading the field with seven nominations each, but Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus will be reuniting at the ceremony to celebrate 15 years of Mamma Mia! (And if that makes you feel old, they are also marking 40 years since they won the Eurovision Song Contest with Waterloo.)

THE OLIVIER AWARDS 2014, ITV1, Sunday 10.15pm

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