Rachel Weisz added a stage accolade to Hollywood stardom Sunday, winning the best-actress prize at London’s Laurence Olivier theater awards for her role in “A Streetcar Named Desire.”
The prize for a Londoner made good in the U.S. was fitting on a night that rewarded several Broadway-bound productions, including “Enron,” '‘Red” and “The Mountaintop,” a play about Martin Luther King by 28-year-old American writer Katori Hall.
Rock musical “Spring Awakening” — which traveled the opposite direction, from New York to London — took four prizes, including best new musical.
Weisz won for playing faded belle Blanche Dubois in the Donmar Warehouse production of Tennessee Williams’ steamy southern drama. Ruth Wilson, Stella in the same play, was named best supporting actress.
Weisz said it had been a delight to return to the theater after an eight-year absence.
“I think it’s the greatest feeling in the world, being on stage,” she said. “The adrenaline you get from it … I think it’s very good for you as an actor.”
Mark Rylance was named best actor for playing charismatic rebel Johnny “Rooster” Byron in Jez Butterworth’s riotous rural drama “Jerusalem.” He beat contenders including Jude Law, for an acclaimed “Hamlet.”
“Somebody asked me what it’s like to be up against Jude Law,” Rylance said. “I don’t know what that experience is like. I’m sure it’s very nice.”
Hall was the surprise winner in the best play category for “The Mountaintop,” a drama about civil rights leader King set on the night before his assassination.
The play opened in London at the 65-seat Theatre503 last year before transferring to the West End. It is scheduled to open on Broadway in the fall.
Hall is only the third woman, and the first black woman, to win the best new play prize in the Oliviers’ 34-year history.
She attributed her success to King’s status as a “universal hero.”
“I thought that because it was an American story about an American hero, no one would want to hear it over here,” Hall said. “But I was proved wrong.”
“The Mountaintop” beat the heavily favored “Jerusalem” and Lucy Prebble’s “Enron,” an entertaining account of the Texas energy giant’s fall.
Rupert Goold was named best director for “Enron,” which opens at New York’s Broadhurst Theatre next month.
The best supporting actor prize went to Eddie Redmayne for “Red,” John Logan’s play about artist Mark Rothko, another Donmar production that is currently running at New York’s Golden Theater.
The Olivier awards, Britain’s equivalent of Broadway’s Tonys, honor achievements in London theater, musicals, dance and opera. Winners are chosen by a panel of stage professionals and members of the public.
Michael Wynne’s “The Priory” — about a group of middle-class friends having a New Year meltdown at a country lodge — was named best new comedy.
The trans-Atlantic traffic continued with Debbie Allen’s all-black production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” with a cast led by James Earl Jones and Phylicia Rashad, winning the prize for best revival. The show ran on Broadway in 2008.
Broadway import “Wicked” won the audience prize for most popular play, the only award decided by public vote.
“Spring Awakening” led the musical categories, with four prizes. Aneurin Barnard and Iwan Rheon were named best actor and supporting actor in a musical for the show, a rock adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s risque drama of youthful sexuality.
A production of “Hello Dolly!” at the Open Air Theatre in Regent’s Park won three prizes — musical revival, choreography and best actress in a musical, for Samantha Spiro.
Maggie Smith received a special award for outstanding contribution to the theater, and producer Michael Codron was given a prize honoring his 60 years in the business.
Actor Anthony Head hosted the awards ceremony at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel, attended by nominees including Law, Keira Knightley and Gillian Anderson.
Britain’s theater sector has proved remarkably robust in the recession, with theater and other creative industries proving one of the battered economy’s biggest exports.
Nica Burns, president of industry group the Society of London Theatre, said theater “is a shining light in the continuing recessionary gloom.”
Winners of the 2010 Laurence Olivier Awards, honoring achievement in theater, opera and dance in Britain:
New Play: “The Mountaintop”
New Comedy: “The Priory”
New Musical: “Spring Awakening”
Revival: “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”
Musical Revival: “Hello Dolly!”
Actress-Play: Rachel Weisz, “A Streetcar Named Desire”
Actor-Play: Mark Rylance, “Jerusalem”
Actress-Musical: Samantha Spiro, “Hello Dolly!”
Actor-Musical: Aneurin Barnard, “Spring Awakening”
Supporting Actress-Play: Ruth Wilson, “A Streetcar Named Desire”
Supporting Actor-Play: Eddie Redmayne, “Red”
Supporting Performer-Musical: Iwan Rheon, “Spring Awakening”
Director: Rupert Goold, “Enron”
Theater Choreography: Stephen Mear, “Hello Dolly!”
New Opera Production: “Tristan und Isolde,” Royal Opera
Outstanding Achievement in Opera: Nina Stemme for “Tristan und Isolde”
Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theater: “Cock”
New Dance Production: “Goldberg”
Outstanding Achievement in Dance: Rambert Dance Company
Set Design: “Jerusalem”
Lighting Design: “Burnt by the Sun”
Sound Design: “Spring Awakening”
Costume Design: “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert — The Musical”
Audience Award for Most Popular Show: “Wicked”
Outstanding Achievement Award: Michael Codron
Special Award: Maggie Smith