Bennelong the Big Winner at 2018 Helpmann Awards

“With an audience full of performers, you’d think they’d know how to take their seats on time!” This observation from my patient (?) plus-one came as the clock ticked past 8.05pm and Sydney’s Capitol Theatre was still only half full. It also perfectly summed up our experience of the 2018 Helpmann Awards. You see, while the nominees and winners are performing arts professionals, at the top of their game, the annual Helpmann Awards ceremony and after party is a chance for them to let their hair down, mix, mingle, air-kiss and generally feel like normal human beings for a night. There were a few technical glitches, a couple of missed cues, even the odd surprised winner who was left completely speechless, but above all there was a wonderful sense of camaraderie.

For the first time, the Helpmann Awards were presented over two nights, to help manage the inevitable timing issues that occur when you have 42 categories to get through. As a first-timer to the awards (and with a regular day job), I was quite appreciative of the fact last night’s action wrapped up around 10pm. The nominees may have felt a bit differently and the high percentage of winners who were unable to attend possibly spoke to this. At least it made for some entertaining moments thanks to Kip (I’ll accept everything on behalf of Sydney Theatre Company) Williams and comedian Anne Edmonds, who wasn’t afraid to ask the tough questions, like ‘Artists don’t have any super, you’re here to help with that, right?’ (directed at Media Super boss, Graeme Russell) and ‘Did anyone actually turn up tonight?’

Hosting duties were shared across both nights by a veritable art gallery of performing arts royalty, including director Neil Armfield, musical director Vanessa Scammell, ballet’s David McAllister and Marilyn Rowe, choreographer Rafael Bonachela, opera singer Jacqueline Dark and performers David Campbell, Mitchell Butel and Tony Sheldon. What was lovely was that each was given a chance to recall their earliest memories of attending the theatre or igniting the creative spark that lay within – these speeches proved to be some of the most moving (albeit rehearsed) of the night.

So, onto the winners, with Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Bennelong certainly coming out on top, receiving the Helpmann for Best New Australian Work, Best Dance Production, Best Choreography in a Dance or Physical Theatre Production (Stephen Page), Best Male Dancer (Beau Dean Riley Smith), Best Lighting Design and Best Scenic Design. Having gotten quite political on night one of the awards, Page toned down his message on night two, simply reminding us of the power of Indigenous stories on the stage (and noting that Bangarra is the only national performing arts company which is wholly Indigenous).

Muriel’s Wedding the Musical was honoured with Best Original Score (Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall), Best Music Direction (Isaac Hayward), Best Costume Design (Gabriela Tylesova), and Best Choreography in a Musical (Andrew Hallsworth) but lost out to Beautiful: the Carole King Musical in the Best Musical category. Beautiful also snatched Best Direction of a Musical (Marc Bruni) and all bar one of the Best Actor/Supporting Actor in a Musical categories.

Best Opera was awarded to Armfield’s production of Hamlet, produced for the Glyndebourne and Adelaide Festivals. The Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s Bluebeard’s Castle won Best Symphony Orchestra Concert.

In the unofficial categories, Sweetest Moment of the Night went to David McAllister and Marilyn Rowe, who were presenting the award for Best Ballet, which went to McAllister on behalf of the Australian Ballet. As she read his name, Rowe turned and wrapped McAllister in the warmest of hugs, and he beamed at the audience saying how lovely it was to receive the award from the person who gave him his job. Awwww. Unofficial Best Plus-One went to my husband, Brad Watson, and Unofficial Best Performance of the Night went to the Fannies from the Sydney Symphony Orchestra’s production of Funny Girl. Twelve divas belting out Don’t Rain on My Parade, topped with a glitter cannon – could there be a better finale?

The full list of winners can be found below.

The 2018 Helpmann Awards winners list:

INDUSTRY AWARDS

BEST NEW AUSTRALIAN WORK

Stephen Page – Bennelong – Bangarra Dance Theatre 

BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Gabriela Tylesova – Muriel’s Wedding the Musical – Sydney Theatre Company and Global Creatures

BEST LIGHTING DESIGN

Nick Schlieper – Bennelong – Bangarra Dance Theatre 

BEST ORIGINAL SCORE

Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttal – Muriel’s Wedding the Musical – Sydney Theatre Company and Global Creatures

BEST MUSIC DIRECTION

Isaac Haward – Muriel’s Wedding the Musical – Sydney Theatre Company and Global Creatures

BEST SCENIC DESIGN

Jacob Nash – Bennelong – Bangarra Dance Theatre 

BEST SOUND DESIGN

Michael Waters – Muriel’s Wedding the Musical – Sydney Theatre Company and Global Creatures 

BEST SPECIAL EVENT

Taylor Mac: A 24-Decade History of Popular Music – A 24-Decade History of Popular Music – Melbourne International Arts Festival and Pomegranate Arts

CABARET

BEST CABARET PERFORMER

Taylor Mac – A 24-Decade History of Popular Music – Melbourne International Arts Festival and Pomegranate Arts

COMEDY

BEST COMEDY PERFORMER

Celia Pacquola – All Talk – Token Events

PRESENTATION FOR CHILDREN  

BEST PRESENTATION FOR CHILDREN

Slingsby – Emil and the Detectives – Slingsby

REGIONAL TOURING AWARDS

BEST REGIONAL TOURING PRODUCTION

Bangarra Dance Theatre – OUR land people stories

CONTEMPORARY MUSIC

BEST AUSTRALIAN CONTEMPORARY CONCERT

Gotye, Sydney Festival and Mona Foma – Gotye Presents a Tribute to Jean Jacques Perrey

BEST CONTEMPORARY MUSIC FESTIVAL

Museum of Old and New Art – Mona Foma

BEST INTERNATIONAL CONTEMPORARY CONCERT

Paul McCartney, Frontier Touring, MPL and Marshall Arts – Paul McCartney – One on One World Tour 2017

DANCE AND PHYSICAL THEATRE AWARDS

BEST BALLET

The Australian Ballet – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

BEST DANCE PRODUCTION

Bangarra Dance Theatre – Bennelong

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY IN A BALLET, DANCE OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION

Stephen Page – Bennelong – Bangarra Dance Theatre

BEST MALE DANCER IN A BALLET, DANCE OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION

Beau Dean Riley Smith – Bennelong – Bangarra Dance Theatre

BEST FEMALE DANCER IN A BALLET, DANCE OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION

Ako Kondo – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland – The Australian Ballet

BEST VISUAL OR PHYSICAL THEATRE PRODUCTION

Bleach* Festival and The Farm – TIDE –  Bleach* Festival, Festival 2018 and City of Gold Coast

OPERA AND CLASSICAL MUSIC

BEST DIRECTION OF AN OPERA

Neil Armfield – Hamlet – Glyndebourne Festival and Adelaide Festival in association with the State Opera of South Australia and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra

BEST FEMALE PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN AN OPERA

Lorina Gore – Hamlet – Glyndebourne Festival and Adelaide Festival in association with the State Opera of South Australia and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra

BEST MALE PERFORMER IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN AN OPERA

Kanen Breen – Coronation of Poppea – Pinchgut Opera

BEST FEMALE PERFORMER IN AN OPERA

Nicole Car – La Traviata – Opera Australia

BEST MALE PERFORMER IN AN OPERA

Allan Clayton – Hamlet – Glyndebourne Festival and Adelaide Festival in association with the State Opera of South Australia and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra

BEST OPERA

Glyndebourne Festival and Adelaide Festival in association with the State Opera of South Australia and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra – Hamlet

BEST CHAMBER AND/OR INSTRUMENTAL ENSEMBLE CONCERT

Perth Festival – Jordi Savall with Hesperion XXI and Tembembe Ensamble Continuo – Perth Festival, Sydney Opera House, Melbourne Recital Centre and QPAC

BEST SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA CONCERT

The Sydney Symphony Orchestra – Bluebeard’s Castle: With Bach and Brahms

BEST INDIVIDUAL CLASSICAL MUSIC PERFORMANCE

Jonas Kaufman – Parsifal – Opera AustraliaTHEATRE

BEST DIRECTION OF A PLAY

Sarah Goodes – The Children – Melbourne Theatre Company and Sydney Theatre Company

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A PLAY

Anita Hegh – The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui – Sydney Theatre Company

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A PLAY

Mitchell Butel – Mr Burns, a Post-Electric Play – Belvoir and State Theatre Company South Australila

 BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A PLAY

Pamela Rabe – The Children – Melbourne Theatre Company and Sydney Theatre Company

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A PLAY

Hugo Weaving – The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui – Sydney Theatre Company

BEST PLAY

Melbourne Theatre Company and Sydney Theatre Company – The Children

MUSICALS AWARDS

 BEST DIRECTION OF A MUSICAL

Marc Bruni – Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – Michael Cassel in association with Paul Blake and Sony/ATV Music Publishing and Mike Bosner

BEST CHOREOGRAPHY IN A MUSICAL

Andrew Hallsworth – Muriel’s Wedding the Musical – Sydney Theatre Company and Global Creatures

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

Amy Lehpamer – Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – Michael Cassel in association with Paul Blake and Sony/ATV Music Publishing and Mike Bosner

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE IN A MUSICAL

Mat Verevis – Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – Michael Cassel in association with Paul Blake and Sony/ATV Music Publishing and Mike Bosner

BEST FEMALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

Esther Hannaford – Beautiful: The Carole King Musical – Michael Cassel in association with Paul Blake and Sony/ATV Music Publishing and Mike Bosner

BEST MALE ACTOR IN A MUSICAL

David Campbell – Dream Lover – John Frost AM and Gilbert Theatrical

BEST MUSICAL

Michael Cassel in association with Paul Blake and Sony/ATV Music Publishing and Mike Bosner – Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

2017 Sue Nattrass Award

Carrillo Gantner
Ian McRae
Susan Provan
Rhoda Roberts
Frank Van Straten

2017 JC Williamson Award

Robyn Archer
Reg Livermore
Robyn Nevin
Archie Roach
Jim Sharman

The 2018 Helpmann Awards were presented in Sydney on Sunday 15th and Monday 16th July. Next year’s ceremony will be held for the first time ever in Melbourne.

For more on the Awards, go here.

For all the highlights from the red carpet, check out Nathan Atkin’s photos here.