I Can’t Believe That Hasn’t Won – The Olivier Awards

Picture of the olivier award statues

This article is a brief look at some musicals…..that didn’t win the Olivier award for best new musical, in particular the shows that we all assume won an Olivier but lost out!

The Lion King

The year 2000 is a good place to start Nominated for best new musical was The Lion King, Mamma Mia, Honk! and Spend Spend Spend. Many would assume that The Lion King won the award, or maybe Mamma Mia but actually the story of the young duck, Honk!, won the prestigious award. Honk has never made its way to Broadway where as Mamma Mia was nominated in 2002 for the Tony award for best new musical and in 1998 the Lion King won the same Tony Award. It was not just best musical that The Lion King lost out on. The Lion King was nominated for 8 awards but only won 2, best choreography and best costume design. It was such a big surprise on the night that even Anthony Drewe, the lyricist for Honk! said ‘ I guess the judges couldn’t get tickets for The Lion King.’ That being said I’m sure now that both The Lion King and Mamma Mia are still running 20 years later they don’t really mind!!


2000 seemed to be the second year in a row where Best New Musical category saw shock waves! in 1999 that famous musical, Kat and the Kings won (nope me neither). I looked into Kat and The Kings and discovered it is set in 1950’s South Africa. It only ran for just over 4 months in the West End. The entire cast was also named Best actor in a musical! It did go onto transfer to Broadway in the following year. This all sounds interesting but when I tell that it won against Saturday Night Fever, Whistle Down The Wind and of most famously Rent it probably wouldn’t have been the name from the list you would have picked out.

Miss Saigon & Les Miserables

Boublil and Schonberg haven’t had much luck when it comes to the Oliviers. They are of course known for Les Miserables and Miss Saigon.

In 1989/1990 Miss Saigon was nominated for best new musical along with Buddy- The Buddy Holly Story, Return to the Forbidden Planet and The Baker’s Wife. Ask most theatre fans now which their favourite show is out of those and you would expect most to say Miss Saigon but winning the award was jukebox musical, Return to the Forbidden Planet. On top of that Miss Saigon was beaten at the Tony awards by The Will Rogers Follies.

Boublil and Schonberg however had been nominated 5 years earlier for Les Miserables. There were only 2 shows nominated that year and Les Miserables lost to Me And My Girl. They did however win the audience award for most popular show in 2012 and 2014.

You may be forgiven in thinking ok but Miss Saigon was revived so Boubill & Schonberg must have won best musical revival…..? Wrong. City of Angles beat Miss Saigon in 2015.


When looking through the list of Olivier Best Musical winners you will notice that Wicked isn’t on there, yet on second glance you will notice that it wasn’t even nominated. In 2007 nominated was Porgy and Bess, Spamalot, Avenue Q and winning was Caroline, or Change. Despite this 13 years later it is still running in the West End.


For our final show I’ve turned to the oldest one on my list which is 1979. Chicago lost out to Songbook. If it gives Chicago fans any solace it did win best musical revival in 1998.

Fun Facts

Before I go a few other fun facts about the Olivier awards – in the last decade for Best Revival Stephen Sondheim has won for 6 of the 10 years (Company, Follies, Gypsy, Merrily We Roll Along, Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods) and with a total of 9 for Best Revival yet for Best Musical he has won 5 times in total. It seems his shows may grow on you!

Talking of Sondheim in 1991 for Best New Musical it was Sondheim v Sondheim. Only 2 musicals were nominated and they were Into The Woods and Sunday In The Park With George, with the latter winning the award!

If you are an actor keen to win an Olivier then statistically if you play Sweeney Todd or Mrs Lovett you stand the best chance as these 2 parts have won 3 times each!

In 2002 and 2003 the same role won best actress, this was Martine McCutcheon and Joanna Riding for Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady.

Finally Judi Dench is the only performer to have won best actor/ess in a play and best actor/ress in a musical in the same year for Absolute Hell and A Little Night Music.

If you liked this article on the Olivier awards you might also like my article on Who Sang It Better looking at Bring Him Home, a musicals quiz based on location and my top 10 under appreciated musical theatre songs.

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