Dame Judi Dench won the first big award of the evening at the Olivier Awards and joked she was "livid" as her win meant she had lost a bet with her grandson.
Dame Judi was named best actress in a supporting role for The Winter's Tale at the ceremony being held at London's Royal Opera House.
The veteran actress was presented with her award by The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time star Luke Treadaway.
She said: "Ladies and gentlemen, I'm absolutely livid as I had a bet with my grandson ... and I'm never going to be able to forget it."
She praised "a really fantastic company and crew and stage management", saying of the award: "It's lovely to have, but in actual fact it belongs to all those people just as much as it belongs to me."
Sherlock creator Mark Gatiss joined the prestigious winners' list as he was named best actor in a supporting role for Three Days In The Country.
Gatiss said: "I'm absolutely overwhelmed, I can't tell you what this means to me. It was an amazing performance and a gift of a part. I'm thrilled to bits, thank you very much."
The first award - for best revival - was presented by Downton Abbey star Jim Carter and Julia McKenzie to Ma Rainey's Black Bottom.
Sir Lenny Henry presented the best entertainment and family award to Showstopper! The Improvised Musical.
The evening's host Michael Ball delighted the audience as he took to the stage in a pair of red, patent leather high heel boots.
He joked: "Why wasn't I cast in Kinky Boots, Nell Gwynn or Gypsy? Tonight I think I've got to prove I've been overlooked."
He then joined best actor in a musical nominees Matt Henry and Killian Donnelly and the cast of Kinky Boots as they kicked off a performance from the show.
Gypsy scooped its first award of the evening for best lighting design, which was awarded to Mark Henderson and was presented by Harry Potter And The Cursed Child actress Noma Dumezweni and The History Boys star Stephen Campbell Moore.
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa presented the award for best new opera production to Kasper Holten for Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci.
Holten said: "When you take risks you sometimes fail, but maybe now it is the time to remember when you take risks you can sometimes succeed."
Dame Kiri then presented Martin Fitzpatrick from ENO Chorus and Orchestra with the award for outstanding achievement in opera.
Fitzpatrick said: "The chorus and orchestra of a company are a vital part of their lifeblood, it's imperative we create an environment in which they are cherished and supported."