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Sondheim Routs 'Spamalot' at UK Awards

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By Peter Griffiths

Broadway veteran Stephen Sondheim swept the board at one of Britain's top theater awards on Sunday, sending the big-budget Monty Python musical "Spamalot" away empty-handed.

A revival of the composer's acclaimed musical "Sunday in the Park with George" was the surprise winner of five prizes at the prestigious Laurence Olivier Awards ceremony in London.

The show, inspired by the work of French painter Georges-Pierre Seurat, opened to small audiences at a minor London theater in 2005 before moving to a bigger stage in the capital's West End.

Despite its relatively low budget and uncommercial subject, it gained glowing reviews, with one critic calling it "close to perfection -- an experience of aching loveliness."

The show won Sondheim and his collaborator James Lapine a Pulitzer Prize for Drama when it first opened on Broadway in 1984.

The London revival earned five Oliviers, for lighting, set design, outstanding musical production and best actor and actress in a musical for Daniel Evans and Jenna Russell.

Disappointment

However, that meant disappointment for "Spamalot."

The bawdy romp based on the classic comedy film "Monty Python and the Holy Grail," failed to pick up a single award, despite seven nominations.

The surreal tale of King Arthur, flatulent Frenchmen and killer rabbits has packed theaters on both sides of the Atlantic and was hotly-tipped to do well in the awards.

Hollywood actress Kathleen Turner, who starred in Edward Albee's classic "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," missed out on the best actress award.

The prize went to English actress Tamsin Greig's Beatrice in Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing."

English actor Rufus Sewell was named best actor for his role as a Czech dissident in Tom Stoppard's "Rock 'n' Roll," a play about the democracy movement in the former Czechoslovakia.

Arthur Miller's classic drama "The Crucible" won two awards, for best revival and best director, Dominic Cooke.

The awards were launched in 1976 to recognize excellence on the London stage.

A full list of winners is at www.olivierawards.co.uk.

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