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Thursday, 15 February, 2001, 16:39 GMT
Critics honour Beautiful Game
Lord Lloyd-Webber and Ben Elton with their wives
Lord Lloyd-Webber and Ben Elton with their wives
Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit show The Beautiful Game, written with Ben Elton, has won best musical at the Critics' Circle theatre awards.

It is Lord Lloyd-Webber's first major theatre prize since The Phantom of the Opera won an Olivier in 1986.

We set out to attract a new, younger audience to musicals and happily it's working

Lord Lloyd-Webber

The Beautiful Game is a football inspired love story set against the troubles in Northern Ireland written by Lord Lloyd-Webber with comic and novelist Ben Elton.

Click here to see the winners in full

At the award ceremony at the Old Vic Theatre in London, Lord Lloyd-Webber said of the musical: "It is more contemporary and challenging than some of my earlier shows.

"Brilliant lyrics'

"I think I speak for everybody involved in the show to say that we are very proud of it and to get recognition like this is a very important part of making sure theatre works.

"With Ben Elton's brilliant lyrics, we set out to attract a new, younger audience to musicals and happily it's working.

"I am very pleased that the theatre critics by voting it Best Musical have shown their appreciation of what Ben and I have attempted."

Despite winning an Oscar, Tonys for his Broadway shows and Grammys for his music in the US, critical success has eluded Lord Lloyd-Webber in the UK, although his musicals, which include Cats and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, have been an undoubted success with the public.

But Lord Lloyd-Webber said he had great respect for the critics even if they did not always give him an easy ride.

"They are absolutely necessary and it is a tough job.

"At the time The Beautiful Game opened there were about 30 shows opening in as many nights so it's not easy."

Other winners in this year's awards include Joe Penhall's powerful drama about race and mental illness, Blue/Orange, which won best play and also netted a best newcomer for its star Chiwetel Ejiofor.

Best actor

Blue/Orange, originally a Royal National Theatre production which will have a new run at London's Duchess Theatre in April, and Ejiofor are also nominated for the Olivier Theatre Awards next week.

Actor Michael Gambon, best known for TV roles in The Singing Detective and Wives And Daughters, was named best actor for his role in Cressida and The Caretaker.

Victoria Hamilton, who won the Critics' Circle newcomer prize in 1995, won best actress for her performance in As You Like It.

Simon Russell Beale, who appeared in Channel 4's A Dance To The Music Of Time won the best Shakespearean performance for his Hamlet at the Royal National Theatre.

The Critics' Circle was established in 1913 and has 80 members in the Drama Section, including all of Britain's leading theatre critics.

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The winners in full

Best new play

Blue/Orange by Joe Penhall (Royal National Theatre)

Best musical

The Beautiful Game by Andrew Lloyd Webber/Ben Elton (Cambridge Theatre).

Best actor

Michael Gambon for The Caretaker & Cressida (Comedy Theatre, Albery Theatre).

Best actress

Victoria Hamilton for As You Like It (Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, Lyric Theatre Hammersmith).

John and Wendy Trewin Award for best Shakespearean performance Simon Russell Beale for Hamlet (Royal National Theatre).

Best director

Michael Grandage for As You Like It/Passion Play/Merrily We Roll Along (Crucible Theatre, Sheffield, Lyric Theatre Hammersmith, Donmar Warehouse).

Best designer

Paul Brown for Richard II/Coriolanus/Tempest (Gainsborough Studios, Almeida Theatre).

Most promising playwright

Joanna Laurens for The Three Birds (Gate Theatre, London).

Jack Tinker award for most promising newcomer

Chiwetel Ejiofor for Blue/Orange (Royal National Theatre).

See also:

27 Sep 00 | Entertainment
Soccer musical has crowd on its feet
20 Sep 00 | Northern Ireland
Musical premiere boosts Omagh fund
07 Mar 00 | South Asia
Lloyd Webber's Bollywood dream
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