Nicole Kidman and James McAvoy were among the winners at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards.
A host of West End stars braved London's near-freezing temperatures tonight and came out to celebrate the best of British acting at the Old Vic, where Imelda Staunton also took home one of the most prestigious awards.
Gemma Arterton and Vanessa Redgrave were among the other winners at the ceremony, which was co-hosted by Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen.
Kidman won the award for Best Actress for her performance as scientist Rosalind Franklin in Photograph 51. Speaking before the ceremony, she said: "I kind of jumped into it without realising how much I was taking on so halfway through the rehearsals I got real stage fright. To be standing here today is extraordinary and I am so so glad that I did it.
"I did it for my father, who was a scientist - he has been orbiting around this whole thing - and also for Rosalind, who was not recognised in her lifetime. That has been very very important to me.
"Photograph 51 was written by a female playwright about a female scientist so to be able to champion that was an honour and a privilege."
McAvoy was named Best Actor for his role in The Ruling Class, while Staunton received a standing ovation after she won Best Musical Performance for Gypsy and performed the song Everything's Coming Up Roses from the musical. There was also a performance from Pixie Lott, who sung Moon River from the forthcoming production of Breakfast At Tiffany's.
McAvoy was presented his award by Gillian Anderson, who was clad in a skin-tight red dress, and beat competition from Simon Russell Beale for his performance in Temple, Kenneth Cranham for The Father and Ralph Fiennes for Man And Superman.
Dame Judi, who is currently starring alongside Sir Kenneth Branagh in The Winter's Tale at the Garrick Theatre, said: "These awards are very important. I think our country is wonderful and theatre particularly, and it is lovely that these things happen."
Sir Ian, who has been in Los Angeles on the campaign trail for his new film, Mr Holmes, said: "This is a celebration and it is lovely. In fact, every night of the year is a celebration of theatre when the crowds come out."
Gemma Arterton won the Newcomer in a Musical Award for her musical debut in Made In Dagenham, while Redgrave received the Editor's Award, which was presented to her by Fiennes and her daughter Joely Richardson.
Arterton said: "I do not win things usually so I do not really know what to say."
Redgrave said: "Obviously I can never act again. We are special, we do carry a responsibility that we do share lightly sometimes and sometimes deeply. Our special responsibility I think is that we carry the lifeblood of our society within us."
Fiennes said he was delighted with the success of Spectre, the latest James Bond film in which he featured, but said he was at the awards not to think about winning awards but to enjoy the occasion.
"I am just here to see my mates, enjoy a drink and a bite to eat, and to enjoy people coming and going."
Meanwhile, Rob Brydon braved the cold to present the ceremony itself, alongside co-host Evgeny Lebedev, the owner of the Evening Standard.
Brydon said: "These awards get a lot of coverage and you need to blow the trumpet so people get to know about it.
"These things need to be pushed so people know what is on and that they can go out and see it."
Other global stars included Kate Beckinsale and Salma Hayek, who wore an open-collared white dress and presented the Beyond Theatre award to Sarah Burton, the creative director of Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty.
The award for Best Play went to The Motherf**ker With The Hat by Stephen Adly Guirgis, and Robert Icke won Best Director for Oresteia.
The Emerging Talent award was won by David Moorst for his role in Violence And Son, while Molly Davies received the Most Promising Playwright award for God Bless The Child.
Completing the event, the Lebedev Award was presented by Dame Judi and Sir Ian to multi-award winning musician Stephen Sondheim, who turned 85 this year.
The awards were in partnership with West End restaurant The Ivy.
Its director, Fernando Peire, said before the event: "We are absolutely delighted to be partnering with this unrivalled and important awards ceremony to recognise the outstanding talent London has to offer, both from the stage and behind the curtain."