Sheridan Smith is to return to the West End stage next year in Willy Russell’s 1986 comedy Shirley Valentine.
The star said that she was “honoured to be entrusted” by the playwright to take on the role of a Liverpudlian woman whose life is in the doldrums and who dreams of escape while talking to the kitchen wall. “As a mum now myself I’m delighted to be playing theatre’s best-loved mum,” said Smith, adding that it was time for her “to practise cooking chips and egg” – the expected dinner of Shirley’s husband.
The monologue will be directed by Matthew Dunster whose West End productions include 2:22 – A Ghost Story by Danny Robins. It will be produced by David Pugh, who said: “Back in 1986 I was lucky enough to see the first ever production of Shirley Valentine in Liverpool. I have begged Willy to one day let me produce a revival.” Both he and Russell believe Smith is “perfect” for the role, added Pugh.
As a stage performer, Smith is best known for her musical roles including Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors and Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. Russell’s play was first staged at the Everyman in Liverpool with Noreen Kershaw as Shirley. Pauline Collins played Shirley in the West End and on Broadway as well as in a 1989 film version written by Russell and directed by Lewis Gilbert.
Dunster’s production opens at the Duke of York’s theatre in London on 17 February and runs for 12 weeks.