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Billy Elliot dances off with top Olivier Awards

Billy Elliot dances off with top Olivier Awards

A trio of young stars from Billy Elliot, the musical tale of a miner's son who wants to dance, stole the show at the U.K.'s prestigious Olivier Awards on Sunday. James Lomas, George Maguire, and Liam Mower, the young actors who alternate in the title role, eclipsed Star Wars star Ewan McGregor, nominated for his turn as New York gambler Sky Masterson in an acclaimed revival of Guys and Dolls, to win the award for best actor in a musical.

Billy Elliot, whose gritty story line and energetic tunes have made it a critical and popular hit, took awards in three other categories, including new musical. The show, which has music by Elton John and the book and lyrics by Lee Hall, also scooped up prizes for theater choreographer--Peter Darling--and for sound design, by Paul Arditti.

Though McGregor lost out, his American costar Jane Krakowski took the award for best actress in a musical for her performance as Miss Adelaide. Brian Dennehy was named best actor in a play for his portrayal of Willy Loman in a revival of Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman. The Laurence Olivier Awards, the U.K. equivalent of the Tonys, honor achievements in theater, musicals, dance, and opera.

A revival of Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen was the most successful production of the evening: Eve Best took the best actress in a play award for her role as Ibsen's heroine, director and revival went to Richard Eyre, and Hedda Gabler also took the set-design prize for Rob Howell.

On the Shore of the Wide World by Simon Stephens received new play honors, and the new comedy prize was won by Heroes by Gerald Sibleyras in a translation by Tom Stoppard. This year's special award went to Ian McKellen--an out stalwart of stage and screen for four decades--for his contribution to theater and his support of the industry.

The English National Opera, which has endured a tumultuous year that saw it lose both its artistic director and chairman, had all four nominations in the opera production category--which was won by Madam Butterfly. Simon Keenlyside's performances in the national opera's Billy Budd and the Royal Opera House's 1984 won outstanding achievement in opera. (AP)

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