Women dominated the gender-neutral performance categories at this year’s WhatsOnStage awards, the only major theater awards awarded by the public.
At a ceremony at London’s Prince of Wales Theater on Sunday night, Jodie Comer was awarded Best Performer in a Play for her solo tour de force in Prima Facie, while Courtney Bowman and Lauren Drew won Best Performer in a Musical and Best Supporting Performer in a musical respectively for Legally Blonde.
Best supporting performer in a play went to Gwyneth Keyworth for her performance of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird and Lucie Jones won best takeover for her turn as Elphaba in Wicked. Meanwhile, Joe Locke was awarded the Best Professional Debut award for his performance in The Trials at Donmar Warehouse.
The big winner of the night was My Neighbor Totoro with five awards from nine nominations, including Best Direction for Phelim McDermott, Best Set Design for Tom Pye and Basil Twist, Best Lighting Design for Jessica Hung Han Yun, Best Musical Direction or Supervision for Bruce O’Neil and Matt Smith and Best Sound Design to Tony Gayle. A Guardian review praised the play’s “amazing puppetry, magical music and tremendous emotional impact”.
Best New Musical went to Bonnie & Clyde the Musical, while Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma!, opening this week in the West End, won Best Musical Revival for its sold-out run at Young Vic, while also won the award for best video. design for Joshua Thorson.
In the straight play category, Prima Facie, which opens on Broadway in the spring, won Best New Play. Suzie Miller’s one-woman drama, about a lawyer who specializes in defending men accused of sexual assault until she is assaulted herself, was a hit with critics last year.
The award for best revival went to the West End premiere of Cock at the Ambassadors Theatre. The musical Six triumphed in the Best West End Show category, winning the award for the third time; Curve Leicester’s production of Billy Elliot the Musical won Best Regional Production; and But I’m a Cheerleader: The Musical at Turbine Theater won best production outside the West End. The producer and theater owner Nica Burns was honored with the award for services to theater.
The WhatsOnStage awards were the first theater awards to establish gender-neutral performance categories this year. Such categories became a point of contention after the British were criticized for not nominating women in the gender neutral artist of the year category this year.
Sarah Coleman and Alex Wood from WhatsOnStage said 2023 had been “another bustling year of productions in the UK”.
“We are proud to be the first theater awards to introduce gender-neutral performance categories to honor our world-leading stage talent, and it is heartening to see new work becoming more prevalent in our theaters,” they added.