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Alison Brinkworth's View

It's good to see that despite cuts to arts budgets and difficult times financially, theatres are striving with new, exciting plays and dance productions and these innovative performances are what have stood out for me in 2015.

Before I list those that shone above all others, it's worth noting that plenty of old favourites are still going strong too. At Birmingham Hippodrome, Jesus Christ Superstar proved it could still pack a punch while Birmingham Royal Ballet's classics The Nutcracker and Carmina burana got another turn to dazzle to coincide with the company's 25th anniversary.

Best Play - Oppenheimer by the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) at Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon. An intelligent, spellbinding new play written by Tom Morton-Smith about the creator of the atom bomb. Strong characters, a clever set used as a chalkboard and emotional scenes made this the standout play of the year.

Best Comedy - East Is East at New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham. A new national tour of this play, based on the popular film, was refreshingly funny and touching with a strong cast including Jane Horrocks.

Best Musical - Top Hat at Birmingham Hippodrome - I got totally swept away into this dreamy, feel-good Hollywood classic musical made famous by Fred and Ginger. Created in 2011,top hat this musical production went on tour and kept the essence of the original with huge dance routines, costumes and sets plus an extremely talented cast.

Best Opera - Welsh National Opera's Sweeney Todd at Birmingham Hippodrome. Sweeney Todd got a modern day makeover into Margaret Thatcher's 1980s with this new, exciting version by the Welsh National Opera. Witty, gory and with a wonderfully harmonic soundtrack.

Top Hat which took the best musical award

Best Dance - The Little Match Girl at DanceXchange Birmingham. Arthur Pita's Little Match Girl returned due to popularity this year and despite using only a small cast and simple set, it is charming and innovative from start to finish. Imaginative choreography makes this a memorable must-see performance.

Best Set - The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time at Wolverhampton Grand and Birmingham Hippodrome. Following the antics of a teenager with autism, this award-winning production features a fully electrified stage to bring to life the way the main character sees the world.

Best Actor - Kenneth Cranham in The Father at Malvern Theatres. Cranham excelled as a man being consumed by dementia in this uncompromising and astonishing play by Florian Zeller. The play continues its tour to Birmingham Rep in May 2016.

Best Actress - Annette McLaughlin in Volpone by the RSC at Swan Theatre, Stratford upon Avon. Playing the atrocious, pouting reality star Lady Politic Would-Be in Volpone, McLaughlin excelled in this comic role to steal the show, even alongside the likes of excellent multi-award-winning actor Henry Goodman in the title role.

Most surprising performance of the year - Craig Revel Horwood in Annie at Birmingham Hippodrome. The Strictly Come Dancing judge was surprisingly light-footed and totally absorbed himself into the role of mean Miss Hannigan.

Actor to watch out for - Alex Hassell from Henry IV Parts I & II and Henry V RSC plays. Alex Hassell completed the string of RSC plays as prince Hal and then King Henry V in these history plays. His obvious camaraderie with Antony Sher (as Falstaff) was key to the plays' success as was his stage presence. A real talent

Actress to watch out for - Melissa James from The Bodyguard at Birmingham Hippodrome. Despite playing the minor role of Nicki - sister to the lead role of Rachel in The Bodyguard - Melissa James stood out as she performed some of Whitney Houston's hardest to sing hits. The stunning actress can sing and act and left the lead Alexandra Burke in the shade. 

Roger Clarke's Awards

Gary Longden's Awards  

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