Matthew Kelly, the TV presenter whose career was nearly ruined by child sex abuse allegations, has been named best actor at the Olivier Awards.
Exactly a year after police dropped their investigation and his name was cleared, Kelly, 53, picked up one of the British theatre world’s most prestigious prizes.
He won for his performance as Lenny, the gentle giant in John Steinbeck’s Depression-era classic Of Mice And Men.
The Stars In Their Eyes host triumphed over a distinguished nominee list which included Kenneth Branagh and Michael Sheen.
The prize was presented at a ceremony in the Hilton on London’s Park Lane.
In an emotional speech, Kelly thanked his wife Sarah.
The couple live separate lives – the presenter has a home in Chiswick, west London, while Sarah, the mother of their two children, lives in Cheshire.
It was a rare joint public appearance for the couple and she said after his win: “I very rarely come to things like this, so being here was wonderful.
“I’m so proud of him. We had no idea he was going to win.
“It was a surprise and I had tears pouring down my face when he was up on stage.”
Kelly also thanked the Birmingham Repertory theatre company, which staged Of Mice and Men.
Kelly appeared in the production weeks after the sex abuse allegations surfaced.
Backstage he said: “Winning this means the end of this year. It means I never have to mention this year again.
“It was terrible what we went through and so I hope this means I can move on.”
The star said he would now take some time off but hoped to do more theatre work in the future.
His life was devastated in January last year when he was accused of sexually abusing a teenage boy in the 1970s.
Kelly vigorously denied the allegations and a month later the police dropped the case.
With the public support of a number of high profile showbusiness friends, he fought to retain his career and went ahead with his planned appearance in Of Mice And Men.
His performance won widespread critical acclaim and the touring regional production transferred to the West End’s Savoy Theatre.
Although best known for his TV work, Kelly is an experienced stage actor and began his career at the Liverpool Everyman in the 1970s alongside the likes of Pete Postlethwaite and Julie Walters.
The Olivier Awards are presented annually by The Society of London Theatre and are now in their 28th year.
Other notable winners included Jerry Springer – The Opera, which took home four awards. They included best new musical and best performance in a supporting role in a musical, the latter going to the entire 27-strong chorus.
Dame Judi Dench received the special award in recognition of her outstanding contribution to British theatre.
Surprise guest of the evening was Hollywood star Kevin Spacey, who presented Dame Judi with her gong.
The pair are close friends and Spacey emerged from the wings to serenade her with a Gershwin classic, I’ve Got A Crush On You.
“She asked us to surprise her and so we did,” he told the audience. “There is no-one like her and there will never be anyone like her. Without question, she is the one we have all had a crush on for a very long time.”
Dame Judi was moved to tears by his speech and declared herself “completely overcome”.
During her 47-year stage career, the Oscar-winning actress has scooped a record six Olivier awards.
She is currently appearing in the Royal Shakespeare Company’s West End production of All’s Well That Ends Well.
Jerry Springer – The Opera won best musical, best performance in a supporting role in a musical, best sound design and best actor in a musical for David Bedella, who plays Satan.
It is the fourth time the production has been named best musical – it also won the accolade at the Critics’ Circle Theatre Awards, the Evening Standard Theatre Awards and the What’s On Stage Awards.
Co-creator Richard Thomas said: “My friend has a simple rule about award ceremonies. If you win – get drunk. If you lose – steal the cutlery. I am pleased to say I left the Oliviers with no cutlery.”
Other winners included Eileen Atkins, best actress for her role in Honour at the Cottesloe Theatre, and Michael Grandage, best director for Caligula at the Donmar Warehouse.
Pacific Overtures, also at the Donmar Warehouse, was named outstanding musical production.
Thoroughly Modern Millie co-stars Amanda Holden and Maureen Lipman missed out on the award for best actress in a musical, which instead went to Maria Friedman for Ragtime at the Piccadilly Theatre.