Cate Blanchett wins fourth Helpmann Award

CATE Blanchett has triumphed again, taking home her fourth Helpmann Award for best actress in a play, it was announced at a lavish ceremony in Sydney tonight.

The star of stage and screen won the prestigious prize for her leading role in the Sydney Theatre Company’s production of The Maids. She has previously won best actress awards for three other STC shows: Gross Und Klein (2012), Uncle Vanya (2011) and Hedda Gabler (2005).

Blanchett’s award was one of 44 presented at the Capitol Theatre during a star-studded night of entertainment recognising Australia’s best live performance.

Opera Australia was the most awarded company with nine awards, of which six were for last year’s epic Melbourne Ring Cycle and three were for its co-production with John Frost, The King and I, which was named best musical.

Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin were overlooked for best director and best costume designer gongs respectively for Strictly Ballroom, which was nominated for six awards but picked up only one.

Instead, Dean Bryant was named best director of a musical for Sweet Charity and Roger Kirk won the award for best costume designer for The King and I.

It was a glorious night for the creators of Sweet Charity, new outfit Hayes Theatre Co, which also picked up awards for best female actor in a musical (Verity Hunt-Ballard) and best choreographer (Andrew Hallsworth).

Other highlights include Richard Roxburgh winning best male actor in a play for Waiting for Godot (Sydney Theatre Company), and Craig McLachlan winning best male actor in a musical for Rocky Horror Show.

Sam Simmons won the award for best comedian, Sarah Ward won best cabaret performer, Bruce Springsteen was named best international concert, and Hunters and Collectors won best Australian concert.

Best play went to Angels in America (Sydney’s Belvoir St Theatre), best opera was Melbourne Ring Cycle (Opera Australia), and best ballet or dance work was Chroma (The Australian Ballet).

The 14th annual awards, presented by Live Performance Australia, have grown in stature every year and are fiercely contested among performers and producers.

“There’s no question they are the pinnacle awards for live performance in this country and we know because people get really upset every year when they’re not nominated,” LPA chief executive Evelyn Richardson said.

“It’s very competitive and people really value their Helpmanns highly. Like all awards shows you court controversy and we live with that, just like the Tonys and the Oliviers do, but I think the main test is the number of entries that we have and the number of producers and performers who really want to be on that list.”