Sheridan Smith and Mel C up for Evening Standard awards

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Melanie Chisholm, right, made her musical debut in Blood Brothers at the Phoenix

Legally Blonde actress Sheridan Smith and former Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm are in the running for London Evening Standard Theatre Awards on Sunday.

Smith, 29, is up for best actress while Chisholm, 36, is up for best newcomer for her performance in Blood Brothers.

The Royal Court, with 11 nods, and the National Theatre, with 10, dominate the shortlist. The Royal Court has all three nods in the best play category.

And the National has all four best director nominations.

Royal Court productions Cock by Mike Bartlett, Bruce Norris's Clybourne Park and Roy Williams's Sucker Punch go against each other for best play.

Best director nominees include Nicholas Hytner for his production of Alan Bennett's The Habit Of Art, at the National's Lyttelton, and Thea Sharrock for After the Dance, also at the Lyttelton.

Evening Standard theatre critic Henry Hitchings said: "The two powerhouses this year have been the Royal Court and, in a handsome return to form, the National Theatre.

"It's also been an excellent year for fresh talent - new faces on the stage and some strikingly original writers and dynamic young companies."

Les Mis anniversary

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Rory Kinnear is nominated for best actor for Measure for Measure and Hamlet

For best actress, Sheridan Smith goes up against After The Dance's Nancy Carroll, and Sophie Thompson, for Clybourne Park.

Also on the list for the Natasha Richardson Award - named after Liam Neeson's late wife - is Smith's fellow musical leading lady Elena Roger, for Passion at the Donmar.

Legally Blonde and Passion compete with Cameron Mackintosh's 25th anniversary production of Les Miserables, at the Barbican, for the musical prize.

For best actor, veteran performers Roger Allam, for Henry IV parts one and two at the Globe, and David Suchet, for the Apollo's All My Sons, go up against Rory Kinnear - for both Measure for Measure, at the Almeida, and Hamlet, at the National's Olivier.

Melanie Chisholm will take on best newcomer nominees including the audience participation-heavy You Me Bum Bum Train, staged at the old London Electricity Board building in Bethnal Green.

Stephen Fry will host Sunday's awards at the Savoy Hotel.

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