"We've witnessed something so fucking special here tonight", said presenter Mel Giedroyc. She wasn't talking about the awards or the performances though. No, this comment was following the night's musical director Tom Deering falling into the orchestra pit after attempting to deliver some Battenburg cake to a member of the audience. It was as ridiculous as it sounds (thankfully he wasn't injured) and representative of a rather haphazard, if highly entertaining, evening.
WhatsOnStage pride themselves on their awards show, the only major theatre awards in which the audience are the judges. It didn't really work for The Brits though, and it doesn't always work here, with gongs often awarded to the biggest, rather than most deserving, names. Inevitably, as the evening was hosted by the Prince of Wales Theatre, The Book of Mormon was the biggest winner of the night with a total of four awards for Best New Musical, Best Actor in a Musical (Gavin Creel), and best Supporting Actor and Actress in a musical (Stephen Ashfield and Alexia Khadime). No doubt The Book of Mormon is a worthy winner and an audience favourite.
Harry Potter stars Rupert Grint and Daniel Radcliffe both won awards for London Newcomer of the Year and Best Actor in a Play respectively amongst incredibly stiff competition. Other recognisable winners included David Walliams for Best Supporting Actor in a Play, Barry Humphries for Best Solo Performance, Helen Mirren for Best Actress in a Play, Scarlett Strallen for Best Actress in a Musical, and pretty much anything associated with Michael Grandage's year-long season (including Grandage himself winning Best Director). With West End ticket prices so high, audiences are of course most likely to vote for the most popular shows and stars, leading to some worthy yet underrated nominees missing out.
Another notable omission is theatre outside of London, with only a single award for Best Regional Production. This year the award went to My Fair Lady at the Crucible, Sheffield. "Maybe one day we'll get the rights and you can see our production in the West End", said the show's hopeful producer. Or perhaps more audiences should travel outside the M25 for their theatre fix?
Awards aside, WhatsOnStage certainly know how to put on a show. The musical performances of the evening were taken from both lesser-known West End shows and forthcoming productions, including a dazzling opening from Cynthia Erivo singing the Dreamgirls hit 'One Night Only' (soon to be seen in I Can't Sing); a preview of the forthcoming Water Babies from singers Louise Dearman and Lauren Samuels; and Michael Xavier almost single handedly holding up the male contingent with a sumptuous, classic performance of Hey There from The Pajama Game. The night ended with a real stunner though - Willemijn Verkaik belting out Let It Go from Disney's Frozen was quite phenomenal.
The real stars of the evening, however, were hosts Mel Giedroyc and Rufus Hound. Following "complaints" last year, they seemed surprised to be back handing out "a fuck-tonne of awards". The show was more comedy act than anything, with crude off-the-cuff humour, plenty of swearing, a lot of on-stage snogging and even an appearance from Pudsey the Britain's Got Talent winning dog who totally upstaged Walliams' acceptance speech. The whole event was out of control "like a quiz night in a Wetherspoons", the humour was random yet absolutely hilarious, and we all learnt the meaning of "doing a Deering".
What a night.
Below is a full list of WhatsOnStage 2014 winners.
Best Actress in a Play - Dame Helen Mirren in The Audience (Gielgud Theatre)
Best Actor in a Play - Daniel Radcliffe in The Cripple of Inishmaan (Noel Coward Theatre)
Best Supporting Actress in a Play - Haydn Gwynne in The Audience (Gielgud Theatre)
Best Supporting Actor in a Play - David Walliams in A Midsummer Night's Dream (Noel Coward Theatre)
Best Actress in a Musical - Scarlett Strallen in A Chorus Line (London Palladium) and Candide (Menier Chocolate Factory)
Best Actor in a Musical - Gavin Creel in The Book of Mormon (Prince of Wales Theatre)
Best Supporting Actress in a Musical - Alexia Khadime in The Book of Mormon (Prince of Wales Theatre)
Best Supporting Actor in a Musical - Stephen Ashfield in The Book of Mormon (Prince of Wales Theatre)
Best Solo Performance - Barry Humphries in Eat Pray Laugh! (London Palladium)
Best Ensemble Performance - A Chorus Line (London Palladium)
Best Takeover in a Role - Carrie Hope Fletcher in Les Miserables(Queen's Theatre)
Best New Play - The Audience (Gielgud Theatre)
Best New Comedy - The Play That Goes Wrong (Old Red Lion and Trafalgar Studios)
Best New Musical - The Book of Mormon (Prince of Wales Theatre)
Best Play Revival - To Kill A Mockingbird (Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park)
Best Musical Revival - The Sound of Music (Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park)
London Newcomer of the Year - Rupert Grint in Mojo (Harold Pinter Theatre)
Best Off-West End Production - Titanic (Southwark Playhouse)
Best Regional Production - My Fair Lady (Sheffield Crucible)
Best West End Show - Matilda the Musical (RSC at the Cambridge Theatre)
Theatre Event of the Year - National Theatre's 50th anniversary gala
Best Shakespearean Production - A Midsummer Night's Dream (Noel Coward Theatre)
Best Director - Michael Grandage for the Michael Grandage Season (Noel Coward Theatre)
Best Set Designer - Mark Thompson for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Theatre Royal Drury Lane)
Best Lighting Designer - Adam Silverman for Macbeth (Trafalgar Studios)
Best Choreographer - Peter Darling for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Theatre Royal Drury Lane)
Best Original Music - Once by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova (Phoenix Theatre)