Discover Sheridan Smith's theatre roles, TV performances, and more
Find out more about Sheridan Smith's TV, film, and theatre credits. See Sheridan Smith in Shirley Valentine in the West End.
One of the most intriguing theatrical prospects of 2023 is actress Sheridan Smith returning to the stage to star in a West End revival of Willy Russell’s one-woman play Shirley Valentine. Smith plays a working-class Liverpudlian housewife (the titular Shirley), who fulfils a lifelong dream of travelling to Greece – and is transformed by the experience.
Russell’s Olivier Award-winning play premiered in 1986 at Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre, starring Noreen Kershaw, and later transferred to the West End with Pauline Collins taking up the role. She reprised it on Broadway and in the film adaptation. More recently, Jodie Prenger starred as Shirley in the 30th-anniversary touring production in 2017.
The 2023 revival of Shirley Valentine, directed by Matthew Dunster, plays at London’s Duke of York’s Theatre. It’s a welcome return to theatre for the Olivier and Bafta-winning actress Sheridan Smith, whose acclaimed work ranges from Jonathan Creek and Cilla on TV to stage musicals Legally Blonde, Funny Girl, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Read on to learn all about Smith’s varied career.
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Sheridan Smith’s screen work
Born in Epworth, Lincolnshire, in 1981, Smith showed an early passion for performing. She trained at the Joyce Mason School of Dancing and was a member of the National Youth Music Theatre. Smith made her TV debut in the BBC period drama Wives and Daughters in 1999, and had a recurring role in sitcom The Royle Family and in medical drama Holby City.
But audiences really got to know her through popular Cheshire-set sitcom Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps. Beginning on BBC Two in 2001, the show followed a group of twentysomethings, with Smith playing Janet Keogh; the talented cast also included Ralf Little, Maxine Peake, Natalie Casey and Will Mellor, and often featured dramatic material as well as humorous. Smith stayed with the show until 2009.
Smith continued to showcase her range, moving between serious fare like crime drama Blood Strangers and comedies like the Paul O’Grady-starring bingo series Eyes Down, romcom Love Soup, and sitcom Grownups – the latter written by Two Pints creator Susan Nickson.
Smith also played Rudi, sister of James Corden’s Smithy, in the hugely successful comedy Gavin & Stacey, and starred alongside Alan Davies in mystery series Jonathan Creek. In the latter, she played paranormal investigator Joey Ross.
In 2012, Smith impressed viewers with her committed work in Jimmy McGovern’s anthology series Accused, playing nurse Charlotte in series 2 episode “Stephen’s Story”. She also starred as the wife of Great Train Robber Ronnie Biggs in the semi-biographical ITV drama Mrs Biggs: that won Smith a Bafta for Best Actress in 2013.
Smith continued to move between different genres, including the children’s drama Mr Stink (based on David Walliams’s book), the Daphne Du Maurier adaptation The Scapegoat, the romantic drama The 7.39, the crime series The Widower, and the comic spoof Inside No. 9.
But it was 2014 drama Cilla that propelled her into the limelight once again. Smith starred as the famous Liverpudlian singer and presenter Cilla Black, and won huge acclaim for her uncanny performance – including soulful re-creations of Black’s hit songs. She won a National Television Award for Cilla and was nominated for another Bafta.
Smith also gave a moving performance in The C Word, a drama based on journalist Lisa Lynch’s blog about having cancer. She then switched gears again for police thriller Black Work, and for The Moorside, which was based on an actual child abduction case. More recently, Smith starred in ITV drama Cleaning Up, playing a cleaner who resorts to insider trading, and reunited with Walliams for Jack and the Beanstalk: After Ever After.
In 2022, Smith played Sarah Sak, mother of a victim of the real-life serial killer Stephen Port (who targeted young gay men) in the BBC drama Four Lives. In another thought-provoking series that year, Smith played a secondary school teacher who was accused of having sex with an underage pupil in Channel 5’s The Teacher.
Smith has also acted as a judge on reality shows like RuPaul’s Drag Race UK and Starstruck, presented shows like Pooch Perfect, and has appeared as herself on the series Who Do You Think You Are? and Bear Grylls: Mission Survive.
On the big screen, Smith has played supporting roles in movies like period drama Hysteria, British comedies How to Stop Being a Loser and The Harry Hill Movie, fantasy adventure film The Huntsman: Winter’s War, and the Dustin Hoffman-directed Quartet.
She had a significant lead role in 2022 sequel The Railway Children Return, which was set during the Second World War. Smith played Annie, daughter of Jenny Agutter’s now-grown-up Bobbie, who takes in three young evacuees from London.
Sheridan Smith’s stage work
Although a prolific screen actress, Smith has also flourished on stage. She made her theatrical debut in the Donmar Warehouse revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods in 1998, playing Little Red Riding hood. The production also starred Nick Holder, Sophie Thompson, Jenna Russell and Damian Lewis.
In 2006, Smith starred as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors – first at the Menier Chocolate Factory, and then in the West End. The production was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Musical Revival.
However, Smith really cemented herself as a musical theatre leading lady when she originated the role of Elle Woods in the first British production of Legally Blonde in 2009. Her wry, knowing take was very different to previous American incarnations of Elle, and it worked a treat for West End audiences. The production won the Olivier for Best New Musical in 2011, plus Smith won for Best Actress and Jill Halfpenny won for Best Performance in a Supporting Role.
Smith followed that up by winning a second Olivier for a very different show: Terence Rattigan’s 1942 work Flare Path, about a love triangle during the war. Smith played Doris, anxiously awaiting the return of her Polish pilot husband who is serving with the RAF, in the well-received West End revival of Rattigan’s play.
More dramas followed: Smith played the title role in Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler at the Old Vic in 2012, and starred as Titania, Queen of the Fairies, in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the West End the following year.
Then it was back to musicals, with Smith triumphing as Fanny Brice in a major revival of Funny Girl. Once again, the show began at the Menier Chocolate Factory, in 2015, and transferred to the West End, then went out on tour. Smith received an Olivier nomination for her dynamic lead turn, although she was sadly indisposed during part of her engagement; understudy Natasha J Barnes had a career-making run when she stepped in.
But Smith was back on form for the hugely popular revival of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s musical Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The show came to the London Palladium in the West End in 2019 (marking Joseph’s 50th anniversary) featuring several effective updates, including new choreography, a clever use of a mixed child-adult cast, and a supersized version of the Narrator role. That latter showed off all of Smith’s talents, including vaudevillian quick-changes, big dance numbers, and a challenging vocal workout.
The revised show was a big success, returning in 2021 with Jac Yarrow (as Joseph) and Jason Donovan (a former Joseph, now Pharaoh), plus Alexandra Burke and Linzi Hateley succeeding Smith in what now looks to be the new model for the Narrator in the show.
Smith has also shown off her excellent singing voice on two albums – the self-titled Sheridan, and A Northern Soul – and has charted with two singles: “Anyone Who Had a Heart”, which she sang on Cilla, and a festive duet with Gary Barlow, “How Christmas Is Supposed To Be”.
Sheridan Smith in Shirley Valentine
Now, Smith makes her first appearance on a West End stage since 2019, as she returns to plays and takes on the exciting challenge of a one-woman show. It gives Smith the opportunity to play another fascinating Liverpudlian character, and to dig into a complex woman who discovers that she could have a life beyond cooking chips and egg for her husband. Smith has also spoken about drawing on her own experiences of being a mum.
Matthew Dunster, who has recently directed shows like Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen and new West End spooky hit 2:22 – A Ghost Story, helms this revival of Shirley Valentine at the Duke of York’s Theatre. The production will doubtless sell out fast due to Smith’s huge popularity and the excitement surrounding her return to theatre, so don’t wait too long before booking your tickets.
Book Shirley Valentine tickets on London Theatre.
Photo credits: Two Pints of Lager (BBC), Cilla (ITV), Legally Blonde, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Shirley Valentine (Photos courtesy of production)
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