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I saw Sheridan Smith's Opening Night and this is my honest review

There's not long left to catch the Cleaning Up star on the West End stage


I saw Sheridan Smith's Opening Night and this is my honest review
Emily Horan
Entertainment Editor
11 April 2024
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Sheridan Smith is nothing if not versatile. She has made us laugh in Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps and Gavin and Stacey; transformed into real-life figures for ITV dramas Cilla and Mrs Biggs; and provided family fun in The Railway Children Return 

But her latest West End role in Opening Night shows yet another side to the talented star, as she portrays troubled theatre actress Myrtle Gordon, whose life spirals out of control when she has a mental breakdown triggered by the death of one of her fans. 

And with the Ivo van Hove-directed musical having just announced it is ending its run early – on 18 May, citing a "challenging financial landscape" – there's not long left to see her performance for yourself. 

Sheridan is starring in Opening Night until 18 May© Jan Versweyveld
Sheridan is starring in Opening Night until 18 May

A play within a play, genre-bending Opening Night – adapted from John Cassavetes' 1977 film of the same name – follows the cast and crew of a fictional production, The Second Woman, being filmed by documentary cameras as they frantically prepare for their Broadway debut, while grappling with the alcohol-fuelled meltdown of leading lady Myrtle. 

As well as showcasing her astounding singing talents, Sheridan brings a unique blend of vulnerability, rawness and cathartics to the role of Myrtle.

This isn't the first that time double Olivier-winning Sheridan has lit up the West End stage. She portrayed the pink-loving lawyer Elle Woods in Legally Blonde between 2009 and 2011, and working class housewife Shirley Valentine last year.

But Sheridan herself has admitted that this role was "close to the bone", after her own "meltdown" in 2016 prompted her to take time out of starring as Fanny Brice in Funny Girl in the West End. The 42-year-old has also been open about her struggles with anxiety, alcohol, self-doubt and grief.

Documentary cameras trail her and the rest of the cast like a hawk, with the real-time filming (displayed on a vast on-stage screen) giving the audience a thrillingly close-up view of every tear, smile and grimace – an intimate element rarely enjoyed in theatre.

While Hadley Fraser and John Marquez put in brilliant performances as The Second Woman's overbearing director Manny and concerned producer David, the female stars steal the show. Nicola Hughes's frustrated playwright Sarah Goode is a worthy match for Sheridan's erratic Myrtle. And Shira Haas – of Unorthodox and Bodies fame – is wildly captivating as she bounds eerily around the stage as the ghost of Myrtle's young fan Nancy.  

Shira Haas and Nicola Hughes light up the stage with Sheridan© Jan Versweyveld
Shira Haas and Nicola Hughes light up the stage with Sheridan

As Myrtle continues to be haunted by visions of Nancy (who has come to represent the youth she yearns for), the behind-the-scenes chaos slowly builds to a tense crescendo – amplified by evocative musical numbers including 'Life is Thin' and 'Ready for Battle' from Rufus Wainwright's soundtrack. 

But for all its turmoil and despair, Opening Night concludes on a decidedly hopeful note, pointing towards a second act in the life of Myrtle.  

The cast of Opening Night on stage at London's Gielgud Theatre© Getty Images
The cast of Opening Night on stage at London's Gielgud Theatre

"Who cares how old she is? Does she win or lose?" asks Myrtle of the character she's supposed to be playing. As she belts out: 'Now, I’m ready for battle', it's clear she has chosen to win. 

And without doubt, Sheridan was the perfect person to showcase Myrtle in all her messy, resilient, defiant glory. 

Opening Night plays at the Gielgud Theatre until 18 May 2024. For tickets, visit openingnightmusical.com 

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