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Harry Potter play sweeps Olivier Awards in the UK

‘Cursed Child’ won a record nine prizes, including best new play, at star-studded event in London

  • Noma Dumezweni poses with her award for Best Actress in Supporting Role for 'Harry Potter And The Cursed CImage Credit: AFP
  • Jamie Parker, winner of the Best Actor award for his role in 'Harry Potter And The Cursed Child' posesImage Credit: AFP
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J.K. Rowling’s boy wizard bewitched the page and the screen, and stage sequel Harry Potter and the Cursed Child cast its spell at British theatre’s Olivier Awards on Sunday.

Cursed Child won a record nine prizes, including best new play, at Britain’s equivalent of Broadway’s Tonys.

Hilariously repetitive comedy Groundhog Day was named best new musical.

The plot for the Harry Potter play picks up 19 years from where Rowling’s last novel left off. It depicts Harry and his friends as adults and follows the adventures of their offspring at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Written by Jack Thorne from a story co-written by Rowling, it has been a critical hit and box office behemoth since opening in July at London’s Palace Theatre, and plans are afoot to send it to Broadway next year.

But star Jamie Parker, who won the best-actor prize for playing the adult Harry, said success — and the embrace of Potter fans — had not been a foregone conclusion.

“There was so much potential for cynicism and scepticism surrounding a production which could have been very tightly controlled and industrial and commercially minded,” Parker said.

But talent, hard work and oodles of stage magic prevailed.

“I’m just so pleased and proud that the entire team are being celebrated,” Parker said backstage during the ceremony at London’s Royal Albert Hall.

The show dominated Sunday’s awards, scooping prizes for sets, lighting, sound, costumes, best director for John Tiffany and three acting awards, as well as best play.

Parker beat rivals including Ian McKellen and Ed Harris to the best-actor prize. Noma Dumezweni took the supporting-actress prize for playing the grown-up Hermione Granger, and Anthony Boyle was named best supporting actor as Scorpius Malfoy, son of Harry’s childhood enemy Draco Malfoy.

Swaziland-born Dumezweni said she was honoured to play Hermione, one of Rowling’s most beloved characters. Some had questioned the casting of a black actress in the role, played on-screen by Emma Watson — though Rowling pointed out that Hermione’s race is never specified in the books.

“So many young actors and actresses come up to me and say, ‘I’m so pleased that you’re playing her. I’m so pleased that I can see a version of myself onstage,’” Dumezweni said. “So I am very, very privileged to do that.”

The play has drawn thousands of first-time theatergoers to the West End, and Thorne said he hoped it would be “like a gateway drug that will get people involved in theatre.”

In other categories, Billie Piper was named best actress for playing a woman whose desire for a baby leads to tragedy in “Yerma” at the tiny Young Vic. The play, adapted by Simon Stone from a Federico Garcia Lorca drama, was named best revival.

Piper beat nominees including Glenda Jackson for King Lear and Ruth Wilson for Hedda Gabler.

Groundhog Day, which began life at London’s Old Vic and is now previewing on Broadway, was named best new musical. The show by Tim Minchin and Danny Rubin wittily reworks the much-loved 1993 movie about a cynical weatherman doomed to repeat the same day over and over again.

Andy Karl was named best actor in a musical for his performance in the lead role, made famous on-screen by Bill Murray.

Former Glee star Amber Riley was named best actress in a musical for a powerhouse performance in “Dreamgirls,” and her co-star Adam J. Bernard was named best supporting actor in a musical. Best supporting actress in a musical was Rebecca Trehearn for Show Boat.

Composer Andrew Lloyd-Webber saw two of his musicals take awards. The child rockers of School of Rock The Musical won the prize for outstanding achievement in music, while an open-air production of Jesus Christ Superstar in London’s Regent’s Park was named best musical revival.

Actor-director Kenneth Branagh received a special award for his contribution to theatre during the black-tie ceremony.

Named for the late British actor Laurence Olivier, the prizes honour achievements in London theatre, musicals, dance and opera. Winners in most categories are chosen by a panel of stage professionals and theatergoers.

The Oliviers have become an increasingly glitzy affair in recent years, awarded at a ceremony studded with musical numbers. Sunday’s event had the added boost of radiant sunshine for a positively summery red carpet.

Celebrities walking the carpet and handing out trophies included Star Wars actor John Boyega, Oscar winner Mark Rylance, The Good Wife star Cush Jumbo and Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Winners of London’s 2017 Olivier stage awards

The winners of the 2017 Olivier Awards, honoring achievement in London theater, opera and dance:

New Play: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

New Musical: Groundhog Day

New Comedy: Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour

Entertainment and Family Show: The Red Shoes

Revival: Yerma

Musical Revival: Jesus Christ Superstar

Actress-Play: Billie Piper, Yerma

Actor-Play: Jamie Parker, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Actress-Musical: Amber Riley, Dreamgirls

Actor-Musical: Andy Karl, Groundhog Day

Supporting Actor-Play: Anthony Boyle, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Supporting Actress-Play: Noma Dumezweni, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Supporting Actress-Musical: Rebecca Trehearn, Show Boat

Supporting Actor-Musical: Adam J. Bernard, Dreamgirls

Director: John Tiffany, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Theater Choreography: Matthew Bourne, The Red Shoes

Outstanding Achievement in Music: The child musicians of School of Rock the Musical

New Opera Production: Akhnaten, English National Opera

Outstanding Achievement in Opera: Conductor Mark Wigglesworth

New Dance Production: Betroffenheit

Outstanding Achievement in Dance: English National Ballet for Giselle and She Said

Set Design: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Lighting Design: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Sound Design: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Costume Design: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theater: Rotterdam at Trafalgar Studios 2