Blondes, giant apes and Aussie dramas were just some of the big winners at this year's Helpmann Awards.

Leading the pack was Sydney Theatre Company's production of The Secret River. An adaptation of the 2005 novel by Kate Grenville, it was awarded six Helpmanns, including best play, best direction of a play for Neil Armfield, and best new Australian work.

In the musical categories, the ladies of bubbly, pink-infused Legally Blonde The Musical may have been screaming "oh my God you guys", with the movie adaptation taking home five awards including the top gong for best musical, as well as best choreography and direction for Jerry Mitchell, and acting awards for lead Lucy Durack and supporting actor for Helen Dallimore.

But King Kong ruled across the technical awards.

In fact, a new award titled outstanding theatrical achievement was created solely to recognise the ground-breaking design, creation and operation of the giant ape - not just an Australian first, but the first of its kind in the world.

Alongside this, King Kong also snatched up four additional Helpmanns for scenic design, and design in costume, lighting and sound.

Hosted by Eddie Perfect and Christie Whelan Browne, the 13th Annual Helpmann Awards were held on Monday night at the Sydney Opera House and broadcast on Foxtel's Arena.

The likes of Tim Minchin, Sydney Dance Company, and the casts of Grease and Hot Shoe Shuffle took to the stage to perform throughout the awards ceremony, which recognises the achievements and excellence shown across Australia's live performance industry.

Presenting the 43 awards were Australian talent including Tina Arena, Baz Luhrmann, Miranda Tapsell, Rob Mills, John Waters, Hugh Sheridan and Elizabeth Debicki.

As previously announced, pop music icon Kylie Minogue and arts philanthropist David Blenkinsop were co-recipients of the 2013 JC Williamson Award. Meanwhile Geoffrey Rush added yet another award to his growing list, winning a second Helpmann for his lead role in the musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

In opera, Salome was the big winner, taking home best opera, as well as best male performance, best female performance, and best female performance in a supporting role.

Live Performance Australia chief executive Evelyn Richardson says the awards have coincided with the release of the 2012 annual ticketing survey, which showed strong ticket sale, stable attendances and revenue exceeding $1.2 billion.

"More than 16 million people attended live events in 2012 indicating that Australians continue to engage with and be entertained by our wonderful productions," she said in a statement on Monday.