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Last Updated: Monday, 13 December, 2004, 15:55 GMT
Top gong for West End's Producers
Nathan Lane (left) and Lee Evans in The Producers
Nathan Lane (left) is set to star in a film remake of The Producers
The Producers has been named best musical at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards despite having opened on the West End stage under two months ago.

The awards, which honour outstanding theatrical talent in London's West End, also paid tribute to actress Dame Judi Dench and playwright Harold Pinter.

Alan Bennett's The History Boys picked up two awards - best play and best actor for Richard Griffiths.

The awards ceremony was held at the Olivier Theatre in London on Monday.

The Producers was named best musical over A Funny Thing Happened on the way to the Forum and Sweeney Todd.

Judi Dench
I've only been given this award for 47 years of doing a job that I absolutely adore
Dame Judi Dench

Adapted from a 1968 movie by director Mel Brooks, the musical - starring Nathan Lane and Lee Evans - opened at London's Theatre Royal on 9 November to a rapturous reception.

The show previously won a record 12 Tony Awards when it opened on Broadway in 2001.

Dame Judi Dench received a standing ovation as she took the stage to receive a special award for her outstanding contribution to British Theatre.

"I've only been given this award for 47 years of doing a job that I absolutely adore," she said.

A second special award, handed out to mark the 50th anniversary of the ceremony, went to playwright Harold Pinter.

Richard Griffiths in The History Boys
Richard Griffiths won best actor for his role in The History Boys

"When The Birthday Party first opened in London 46 years ago, it was slaughtered by the critics and it came off in a week," said Pinter, receiving his award from Sir Peter Hall.

"But in the early New Year I'm happy to say that rehearsals will start for the fourth revival in London," he added.

Also among the winners was Victoria Hamilton, who won best actress for her role in Tennesee William's Suddenly Last Summer.

Director Rufus Norris won best director for his critically acclaimed adaptation of the Danish film Festen. Festen's set, lighting and sound designers jointly took the award for best design.

Actor Eddie Remayne beat Ben Wishaw's Hamlet to be named best newcomer, while Owen McCafferty won a 30,000 bursary for new playwriting for his Scenes from the Big Picture.

A third and final special award was awarded to the National Theatre, with former and current artistic directors Sir Peter Hall, Sir Richard Eyre, Trevor Nunn and Nicholas Hytner accepting the award.

The Producers wins praise on its star-studded opening

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