Dame Monica Mason to receive special Olivier Award

Monica Mason on her 54-year career with The Royal Ballet

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Director of the Royal Ballet Dame Monica Mason is to receive a special prize at the Olivier Awards for her outstanding contribution to theatre.

Mason, who was previously a dancer with the ballet, is due to retire in July after 54 years with the company.

Actors James McAvoy, Zach Braff, Lenny Henry, Elaine Paige, Patrick Stewart, David Suchet and Barbara Windsor have all been lined up to present awards.

The ceremony will take place on Sunday, 15 April at London's Royal Opera House.

Lyricist Sir Tim Rice, best known for co-writing shows such as Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, will also receive an outstanding contribution prize.

He and Dame Monica join Harold Pinter, Dame Judi Dench and Stephen Sondheim as previous recipients of the award.

Born in Johannesburg, Dame Monica moved to the UK in the 1950s after her father died suddenly.

She joined the Royal Ballet when she was just 16 years old. By the age of 20, she had been given the lead role in Kenneth MacMillan's new version of Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring; and in 1968 she was promoted to principal dancer.

In the 1970s, she took on some of ballet's most famous roles - including Odette / Odile in Swan Lake.

MacMillan also created four roles for her: Lescaut's Mistress in Manon, Calliope Rag in Elite Syncopations, Summer in The Four Seasons and the Midwife in Rituals.

She was appointed director of the ballet in 2002, and is currently presiding over her final season - with productions including Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and The Prince of the Pagodas.

This year's Olivier awards will be presented by Sweeney Todd stars Michael Ball and Imelda Staunton.

Matilda The Musical leads the nominations with 10 potential awards, including best director, best actor and supporting actor in a musical.

The ceremony will be streamed live online and British viewers can see live coverage on the BBC using the red button.

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