Sheridan Smith was moved to tears on Wednesday evening after her one-woman performance as middle-aged lonelyheart Shirley Valentine earned a standing ovation.
The actress, 41, has stepped into shoes first worn by Pauline Collins in a 1989 film of the same name to play Valentine in a new West End production at London’s Duke Of York Theatre – a turn that has been a hit with critics.
Her press night performance was given a rapturous reception, with an emotional Smith evidently taken aback by the response as she closed the performance by welcoming her 22-month old son Billy onto the stage.
A source told MailOnline: ‘She brought her baby boy up onstage who waved adoringly to the crowds, kissed his mum on the cheek and carried on clapping.
‘The audience was enthralled and it was the perfect ending to the most breathtaking performance by Sheridan in a one woman show.
Success: Sheridan Smith was moved to tears on Wednesday evening after her one-woman performance as middle-aged lonelyheart Shirley Valentine earned a standing ovation
In good company: An emotional Smith closed the performance by welcoming her 22-month old son Billy onto the stage
A source told MailOnline: ‘She brought her baby boy up onstage who waved adoringly to the crowds, kissed his mum on the cheek and carried on clapping’
Side by side: Smith struggled to compose herself after a pyjama clad Billy emerged onstage at London’s Duke Of York Theatre
‘She captivated audiences throughout and took them on the most beautiful journey, with ease.’
The Matthew Dunster directed show, which runs until June, has already made history by breaking the Duke Of York’s box office record after opening to advance bookings totalling £4million.
Thoses in attendance for Wednesday’s official launch included Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden, who was accompanied by her mother Judith, and former Brookside actress Claire Sweeney.
Shirley Valentine, which was also made into a 1989 movie with Pauline Collins, is a one-woman-show which tells the story of a working class housewife from Liverpool.
The play is the joyous, life-affirming story of the woman who got lost in marriage and motherhood, the woman who wound up talking to the kitchen wall whilst cooking her husband’s chips and egg.
Popular: ‘She captivated audiences throughout and took them on the most beautiful journey, with ease,’ the source added
Thank you so much: The pair waved as they prepared to exit the stage on Wednesday night
She’s pleased: The actress gave guests the thumb’s up before she departed stage left
Looking back: The role of Shirley Valentine was made famous by actress Pauline Collins, 82, when it was made into a film in 1989
Sheridan Smith in Shirley Valentine: What are the critics saying?
‘The warmth of her enormous smile in Willy Russell’s onewoman tale of a lonely, middle-aged Liverpool housewife is simply irresistible’.
‘Sheridan is a pina colada – complete with cocktail umbrella – to the film’s pint of Watney’s Red Barrel’.
‘The deeper, existential elements are powered by Smith’s disarming and quietly dazzling performance. She mines every ounce of cheeky comedy but also builds such surreptitious and organic emotional undercurrents that we buy every moment, and the play is eternally relevant’.
‘Sheridan Smith and Shirley Valentine: it’s a match made in theatre heaven’.
‘Smith looks so at home on stage – and with record-breaking advance box office takings and an extended 15-week run, I suspect she could take up permanent residence in the West End if she wanted to’.
‘She already has two Olivier awards to her name; a third seems a certainty’.
‘Smith turns out to be a perfect fit for the role in the director Matthew Dunster’s brisk production. She’s irreverent, sparky and, underneath the flashing smile, winningly vulnerable’.
‘A gifted mimic, Smith brings the subsidiary figures — husband, daughter and feckless friends — to life’.
‘Sheridan Smith has great warmth, impeccable timing and a rare ability to connect with an audience as an equal’.
‘With almost any other actress I suspect it would be unwatchably patronising and old fashioned’.
‘It’s great to see her back on stage, even in material as dated as this’.
‘Smith is theoretically delivering her monologue to “wall”, the grease-splattered, silent recipient of her confidences. But really, she’s talking straight to the audience, unpacking every ounce of humour in Russell’s witty script.’
‘Smith radiates joy as she starts to indulge her own long-suppressed appetites, instead of catering to those of others.’
‘Sheridan Smith is tremendous in Matthew Dunster’s skilled revival of Willy Russell’s monologue, equal parts uplifting and chilling.’
‘Now she’s back with a role she could have been born to do.. the hyper-busy Matthew Dunster is on directing duties.’
‘Sheridan Smith reanimates Willy Russell’s well-worn monologue.’
‘This time around, in an eminently capable production by Matthew Dunster, it’s Sheridan Smith wielding the chip pan and the suntan oil – and she could hardly be more radiantly charming, nor display a defter, more persuasive command of Russell’s blend of sentimentality and wry humour. Yet it just doesn’t feel like quite enough.’
‘Sheridan Smith and Shirley Valentine go together like egg and chips. Just as well, because Smith spends much of the first half of Willy Russell’s 1986 one-woman show preparing that very dish for her husband.’
‘Her gift of instantaneous audience rapport combined with unimpeachable comic timing wrings every laugh from Russell’s script that spins marital cliches into verbal gold.’
But Shirley still has a secret dream. And in her bag, an airline ticket. One day she may just leave a note, saying: ‘Gone! Gone to Greece.’
The play was written by Willy Russell, directed by Matthew Dunster, designed by Paul Wills, with lighting design by Lucy Carter, sound design by Ian Dickinson for Autograph and is produced by David Pugh.
After she took to the stage for the first performance, audience members rushed to social media to gush over the show – dubbing Sheridan’s acting ‘perfect’.
One penned: ‘@sheridansmith1 wow what a performance, a true icon and such talent. One woman show, so incredible @shirleyonstage a must see’.
‘A well deserved standing ovation for @sheridansmith1 this evening after an incredible opening night performance as Shirley Valentine. Craving chips and egg now,’ tweeted another.
Upbeat: Smith greeted onlookers with a smile as she exited the theatre later that night
There she is: The actress caught the eye in a smart black trouser suit and crisp white shirt
Three’s company: (L-R) Playwright Willy Russell, actress Sheridan Smith and director Matthew Dunster
Make way: Guests on the night included former Brookside star Claire Sweeney and Britain’s Got Talent judge Amanda Holden
In attendance: Former Hollyoaks star Gary Lucy was joined by his mother Ros at the show
Pals: Smith reunited with close friend Sweeney following the show at London’s Duke Of York theatre
Double act: Holden was joined by her mother Judith as she arrived at the theatre ahead of the one-woman show
Others noted that she ‘smashed it out of the park’.
One simply shared: ‘Sheridan Smith as Shirley Valentine in West End: totally utterly divine’.
Previously speaking about taking on the role, Sheridan explained: ‘As a mum now myself I’m delighted to be playing theatre’s best-loved mum and I am honoured to be entrusted by Willy Russell to bring his Shirley to life once again in the West End.
‘Now, to practice cooking chips and egg’.