Nominations for the 17th Annual Helpmann Awards have been announced at simultaneous events in Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney, with Dame Julie Andrews’ 60th anniversary production of My Fair Lady for Opera Australia and John Frost leading the way with nine nominations including Best Musical.

Anna O’Byrne and Charles Edwards in My Fair Lady. Photograph © Brian Geach

Also receiving a substantial number of nominations were the musicals The Book of Mormon (eight), Aladdin (seven) and Kinky Boots (seven). Barrie Kosky’s production of Handel’s Saul heads the opera category with seven nominations including Best Opera, while Leah Purcell’s The Drover’s Wife has six theatre nominations including Best Play.

The Helpmann Awards recognise distinguished achievement and excellence in Australia’s live performance industry with awards in 42 categories across classical and contemporary music, opera, theatre, musical theatre, ballet, dance and physical theatre, presentations for children, regional touring, cabaret and comedy. The 2017 Helpmann season ran from March 1 2016 to April 28 2017 and productions must have been staged during that period to be eligible.

The Helpmann Awards are managed by Live Performance Australia (LPA). LPA Chief Executive Evelyn Richardson said, “This year has been a remarkable year for live performances in Australia reflecting a vibrant industry with more than 18 million people attending shows across the country and ticket revenues of $1.4 billion”.

“Over the past 17 years, the Helpmann Awards have received over 10,000 entries and announced 2,600 Nominations, which further illustrates the scale of the live performance industry in Australia. We are thrilled to be announcing on 24 July a further 42 winners to add to the existing 550 Helpmann Awards alumni.”

Saul. Photograph © Tony Lewis

Kosky’s production of Saul, which premiered at Glyndebourne Opera Festival in 2015, played in Australia as the sold-out centrepiece of the 2017 Adelaide Festival where it was rapturously received. As well as being up for Best Opera, Saul has nominations for its direction (Kosky), music direction (Erin Helyard), lighting (Joachim Klein) and scenic design (Katrin Lea Tag). British baritone Christopher Purves who played Saul is nominated as Best Male Performer in an Opera, while Australian tenor Kanen Breen is nominated as Best Male Performer in a Supporting Role.

The other productions nominated for Best Opera are Opera Australia’s productions of Cavalleria Rusticana & I Pagliacci directed by Damien Michiletto, Così fan tutte directed by Sir David McVicar, and King Roger directed by Kasper Holten.

In the classical music section the nominations for Best Symphony Orchestra Concert are Asher Fisch Conducts Resurrection for the West Australian Symphony, Tristan & Isolde with Nina Stemme and Stuart Skelton, conducted by Marko Letonja for the Tasmanian Symphony, and two concerts in the Sydney Symphony’s celebration of Stravinsky’s ballets, conducted by David Robertson, The Firebird – Ravishing and The Rite of Spring – Primal.

Nominations for Best Chamber and/or Instrumental Ensemble Concert are the Academy of St Martin in the Fields led by Joshua Bell, Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo performed by Concerto Italian at the Adelaide Festival, and two Australian Chamber Orchestra concerts, Bach Violin Concertos and Baroque Brilliance with Julie Lezhneva.

German conductor Christoph von Dohnányi, exciting young Russian pianist Daniil Trifonov, star violinist and Music Director of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields Joshua Bell, and ACO Artistic Director and violinist Richard Tognetti are nominated for Best Individual Classical Music Performance.

Queensland Ballet’s Strictly Gershwin. Photograph © David Kelly

In the ballet category two Queensland Ballet productions – Strictly Gershwin and Natalie Weir’s We Who Are Left – are nominated as Best Ballet along with two international productions, Ballet Preljocaj’s Snow White and Nederlands Dans Theater’s Solo Echo.

The Australian Ballet’s stunning production of John Neumeier’s ballet Nijinsky is a surprise omission, though it has nominations for Best Male Dancer (Kevin Jackson) and Best Music Direction (Nicolette Fraillon).

The nominations for Best Dance Production are Attractor (Dancenorth and Lucy Guerin Inc), Intimate Space (Restless Dance Theatre), OUR land people stories (Bangarra Dance Theatre) and Split (Lucy Guerin Inc).

The leader of the pack in the theatre categories is Belvoir’s production of The Drover’s Wife, a radical retelling of Henry Lawson’s short story which Leah Purcell wrote, directed and starred in. The play recently won the top prize at the NSW Premier’s Literary Awards, having previously won the Victorian Premier’s Prize for Literature.

The Drover’s Wife has six nominations including Best Play and Best New Australian Work. It also received nominations for direction (Leticia Cáceres), Best Female Actor (Purcell), Best Male Actor (Mark Cole Smith) and Best Costumes (Tess Schofield).

Leah Purcell in The Drover’s Wife. Photograph © Brett Boardman

Also nominated for Best Play are Kate Mulvany’s Jasper Jones (Melbourne Theatre Company), Michael Gow’s Once in Royal David’s City (Queensland Theatre Company and Black Swan Theatre Company) and Things I Know To Be True (State Theatre Company South Australia and Frantic Assembly).

Judy Davis (Faith Healer for Belvoir), Kip Williams (Chimerica for Sydney Theatre Company) and Susie Dee (SHIT for Dee & Corneulis and Sydney Festival) receive Best Director nominations along with Cáceres.

Vyving for Best Male Actor in a Play are Colin Friels (Faith Healer), Jason Chong (Chimerica), Jason Klarwein (Once in Royal David’s City) and Mark Cole Smith (The Drover’s Wife), while Best Female Actor in a Play nominations go to Alison Whyte (Faith Healer), Helen Morse (John), Kate Mulvany (Richard 3) and Leah Purcell (The Drover’s Wife).

The nominations for Best Musical are Aladdin, Kinky Boots, My Fair Lady and The Book of Mormon. Amy Lehpamer (Dusty), Anna O’Byrne (My Fair Lady), Sophie Wright (Kinky Boots) and Zahra Newman (The Book of Mormon) are nominated for Best Female Actor in a Musical, while Ainsley Melham (Aladdin), Al Holmes (The Book of Mormon), Callum Francis (Kinky Boots) and Charles Edwards (My Fair Lady) are up for Best Male Actor in a Musical.

The Helpmann Awards will be announced on Monday July 24 at a ceremony at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre. The event will be broadcast live on Foxtel Arts and webcast free via

A full list of nominations can be found HERE