Sheridan Smith’s divisive West End play to close two months early

Closing night is coming sooner than expected for the Sheridan Smith-fronted play Opening Night, as it has been announced that its West End run is ending two months early.

Olivier Award-nominated Smith currently stars in the musical as an anxious, alcoholic actor whose mental health declines after she witnesses a death.

Though it opened last month and was scheduled to run at the Gielgud Theatre until 27 July, Opening Night will close on 18 May.

Producers Wessex Grove announced on Thursday (11 April) that the decision to end the play’s run sooner than planned comes amid tough economic times.

The statement added: “In a challenging financial landscape, Opening Night was always a risk and, while the production may not have had the life we had hoped for, we feel immensely proud of the risk we took and of this extraordinary production.

“Our world-class cast delivers a brilliant show night after night, and there are still five weeks left to see Sheridan Smith in the role of a lifetime. What is sure-fire and safe has its place.”

Earlier this week, the show’s ticket prices were discounted at some retailers as a potential incentive for audience members to buy. Tickets on London Theatre had a 36 per cent discount with prices starting from £25. However, higher-end tickets are still available for purchase at £180.

Opening Night has received mixed reviews from theatre critics, with major publications rating the work anywhere from four stars (The Guardian) to a disappointing one star.

The Independent’s reviewer Alice Saville praised Smith’s performance but pointed out some “flawed” directing and writing choices.

Sheridan Smith as Myrtle in ‘Opening Night' (Jan Versweyveld)
Sheridan Smith as Myrtle in ‘Opening Night' (Jan Versweyveld)

In her three-star review, Saville writes: “Smith plays an actor self-destructing as she tries to make sense of the nonsensical role she’s been handed. But her own part here is pitifully underthought too, its vague references to menopause doing little to show what it’s actually like to be a woman facing down her future in a sexist, ageist industry.”

However, the Evening Standard’s take on the play was less sympathetic, with reviewer Nick Curtis describing it as “awful”.

He writes: “After disastrous previews, some changes have apparently been made, including the removal of a prolonged vacuuming scene (yes, really). But the show remains a hot mess, unsalvageable. Roll on closing night.”

Sheridan Smith returns to the West End in ‘Opening Night’ (Oliver Rosser)
Sheridan Smith returns to the West End in ‘Opening Night’ (Oliver Rosser)

Opening Night is an adaptation of John Cassavetes’s 1977 film of the same name, with music and lyrics by Rufus Wainwright and directed by Ivo van Hove.

In a statement, van Hove reflected on the experience and paid tribute to the cast. “I had the most wonderful and inspiring time making Opening Night thanks to the talent and commitment of our incredible cast and production team,” he writes.

“They were led by the exceptional Sheridan Smith, who had the bravery to play such a complex role in the West End. I try to be fearless and sincere in everything I make.

“With Rufus’s beautiful music, we made something totally unique and true to John Cassavetes’ daring exploration of the human condition.

“It will forever have a special place in my heart. It is always sad when a show closes early but I know that Opening Night will live long in the memories of those who saw it and made it.”

The Independent has reached out to Sheridan Smith for comment.

Opening Night runs at the Gielgud Theatre in London until 18 May.