Following the presentation of 20 Helpmann Awards last night, the other 23 awards covering classical music, opera, theatre, musicals, dance, comedy and cabaret were presented tonight at a black-tie gala event at the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne, hosted by writer/actor Susie Youssef and Mitchell Butel, the newly appointed Artistic Director of State Theatre South Australia.
Prakash Belawadi as Apah in Counting and Cracking. Photograph © Brett Boardman
Once again it was Counting and Cracking’s night. S. Shakthidharan’s epic new play produced by Belvoir and Co-Curious at the 2019 Sydney Festival and Adelaide Festival, won a further three awards, on top of the four from last night, making it the biggest winner of the 2019 Helpmann Awards. At tonight’s Act II ceremony, it was named Best Production of a Play and Best New Australian Work, while Prakash Belawadi was named Best Male Actor in a Play. Surprisingly, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which won a record-breaking nine Olivier Awards in London and six Tonys on Broadway, won only one Helpmann for lighting – with voters favouring the homegrown Counting and Cracking.
Best Female Actor in a Play went to Kate Mulvany for her performance in Belvoir’s production of Every Brilliant Thing – one of 13 wins for Belvoir across several productions.
The Magic Flute. Photograph © Toni Wilkinson
Best Opera went to the Komische Oper Berlin’s production of The Magic Flute, directed by Barrie Kosky and Suzanne Andrade – the third Helpmann Award for the production, which used an ingenious stage design featuring a kaleidoscope of hand-drawn images by Paul Barritt from the renowned British theatre company 1927.
Beating the major commercial musicals nominated this year, Best Musical was won by Barbara and the Camp Dogs, another Belvoir production (produced in association with Vick Gordon Music Productions Pty Ltd) written by Ursula Yovich and Alana Valentine. Yovich was also named Best Female Actor in a Musical, taking the show’s total Helpmann Awards to four, following wins for Elaine Crombie and the show’s score last night. Best Actor in a Musical went to Brent Hill for his performance in School of Rock.
Lise Lindstrom in Opera Australia’s Salome. Photo © Prudence Upton
Opera Australia picked up two more awards with Michael Honeyman taking home Best Male Actor in an Opera for Wozzeck, while Lise Lindstrom was named Best Female Actor in an Opera for her dazzling portrayal of Salome.
West Australian Symphony Orchestra won two awards for its concert performances of Tristan und Isolde: Best Symphony Orchestra Concert, and Best Individual Classical Music Performance for conductor Asher Fisch. Best Chamber and/or Instrumental Ensemble Concert went to Gabrieli Consort & Players for Purcell’s King Arthur performed at Melbourne Recital Centre and for State Opera of South Australia.
Kevin Jackson and Leanne Stojmenov in The Australian Ballet’s Aurum. Photo © Jeff Busby
In the dance categories, Best Ballet was won by Aurum, a new work choreographed by Alice Topp for The Australian Ballet, which the company premiered in 2018 and has also performed in New York. Best Dance Production went to Australian Dance Theatre for The Beginning of Nature. Best Male Dancer in a Ballet, Dance or Physical Theatre Production was won by Waangenga Blanco for his performance in Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Dark Emu, while Best Female Dancer in a Ballet, Dance or Physical Theatre went to Tara Jade Samaya for her performance in Chunky Move’s Common Ground.
Among the other awards, Best Visual or Physical Theatre Production was won by Out of Chaos… produced by Gravity & Other Myths. Hannah Gadsby won Best Comedy Performer for her solo show Douglas, Ali McGregor won Best Cabaret Performer for her show Yma Sumac – The Peruvian Songbird, which premiered at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival, and Tim Minchin won Best Australian Contemporary Concert for his concert Back.
Best Contemporary Music Festival went to MONA FOMA 2019, produced by Hobart’s Museum of Old and New Art (Mona), and Best International Contemporary Concert was presented to David Byrne and Frontier Touring for the 2018 American Utopia Tour.
The 2019 JC Williamson Award was presented by Paul Kelly to legendary singer-songwriter Kev Carmody for his outstanding contribution to the live performance industry.