By JILL LAWLESS
LONDON - Helen Mirren reigned at London's Olivier theater awards Sunday, taking the best actress prize for her performance as Queen Elizabeth II in "The Audience."
Mirren had been favorite for the trophy at Britain's equivalent of Broadway's Tonys for her regal yet vulnerable turn in Morgan's play about the private weekly meetings between the monarch and Britain's prime ministers over the her 61-year reign.
Mirren is no stranger to royalty - she won an Academy award in 2007 for the same role in "The Queen."
Accepting the award, she joked that it was the queen who deserved an award, "for the most consistent and committed performance of the 20th century, and probably the 21st century."
The winners were being announced during a song- and dance-filled ceremony at London's Royal Opera House hosted by "Downton Abbey" actor Hugh Bonneville and stage star Sheridan Smith - who kicked things off by belting out "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend."
"Homeland" star Damian Lewis, "Sex and the City" alumna Kim Cattrall and former boy wizard Daniel Radcliffe were among the presenters. The show is due to include performances from "Glee" star Matthew Morrison and Tony-winning diva Idina Menzel.
"Audience" co-star Richard McCabe, who won the supporting actor trophy for playing Prime Minister Harold Wilson, said Mirren was a joy to work with.
"It's important as an actor to be absolutely fearless, and she is," he said.
Luke Treadaway was named best actor for "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," beating Rupert Everett for Oscar Wilde drama "The Judas Kiss"; James McAvoy for "Macbeth"; Mark Rylance for a cross-dressing turn in "Twelfth Night"; Rafe Spall for the relationship drama "Constellations."
The National Theatre's acclaimed production of "Curious Incident" - based on Mark Haddon's novel about a mystery-solving boy with Asperger's syndrome - led the race with eight nominations, while the jaunty musical "Top Hat" had seven.
"Curious Incident" took awards for set, lighting and sound, and for supporting actress Nicola Walker.
"Every rehearsal and every single performance was a prize, so this is completely overwhelming," Walker said.
Nominees for musicals include Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton for "Sweeney Todd," Alex Bourne and Hannah Waddingham for "Kiss Me, Kate" and Heather Headley for "The Bodyguard."
Two political dramas -"The Audience" and rough-and-tumble Parliamentary saga "This House" - are up for best new play, alongside the love story "Constellations" and "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time."
The best new musical nominees are the geeks-made-good story "Loserville"; the Tina Turner tribute "Soul Sister"; the movie-inspired "The Bodyguard"; and the high-stepping "Top Hat."
Winners in most categories are chosen by a panel of theater professionals and members of the public.
"Billy Elliot" won the Audience Award for most popular show, which is decided by public vote.
Jill Lawless can be reached at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless
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