The WhatsOnStage Awards are the only major theatre awards in which you, the audience, are the judges across all categories. Key dates for the 2014 Awards (covering the 2013 theatre year) are: 1 November - nominations open; 30 November - nominations close; 6 December - Launch party, shortlists announced, voting opens; 31 January - Voting closes; and 23 February - Awards Ceremony and Concert, winners announced.
Each year, the Awards shortlists - covering the best of London theatre (and a bit beyond) - are drawn up with the help of thousands of theatregoers who log on to nominate their favourites across all 20+ awards categories. Nominations are announced at a star-studded launch event held in early December.
Voting then opens and runs until the end of January the following year. In 2012/13, over 60,000 theatregoers logged on to vote, with leaders in many categories fluctuating dramatically from day to day. In the end, almost every year, the determination of some fields comes down to just a handful of votes.
All professional productions that opened in London between 1 December and 30 November are eligible for primary awards consideration. There are a few special categories. Best Takeover in a Role recognises new performers in longer-running productions, while Best Regional Production casts the net beyond the capital. Non-West End productions are eligible for nomination across all fields, there is also a category specifically for Best Off-West End Production. The ever-popular Theatrical Event of the Year award category is more wide-ranging and largely subject to theatregoers' interpretation. To celebrate the tenth anniversary of the awards in 2010, we introduced a new category for Best West End Show, which applies to all current West End productions, including long-running blockbusters.
Voting - limited to one vote per person - is strictly monitored to allow as fair an outcome as possible and to ensure that any attempted rigging is captured. The monitoring takes a number of forms and includes email registration, technical checks and statistical analysis. No checks, no matter how rigorous, can guard against the mobilisation of performer or production fan bases, which are inherent - and legitimate - in a popular vote of this kind, but they do prevent cheats.