Sheridan Smith to star in new musical Opening Night at Gielgud Theatre

Sheridan Smith is to star in new musical Opening Night by Ivo Van Hove and Rufus Wainwright at the Gielgud Theatre from March 2024.

Sheridan Smith

Directed and conceived by Ivo van Hove and starring Sheridan Smith as Myrtle, the world premiere of John Cassavetes’ Opening Night- a new musical will play a strictly limited season at the Gielgud Theatre in London’s West End from 6 March to 27 July 2024. Further casting to be announced soon.


Based on John Cassavetes’ legendary film, Opening Night follows a theatre company’s preparations to stage a major new play on Broadway. But drama ignites behind the scenes when their leading lady is rocked by tragedy, and her personal turmoil forces everybody to deliver the performance of their lives.

Sheridan Smith said today “The chance to work with the musical genius that is Rufus Wainwright and one of the world’s greatest stage directors Ivo van Hove was a once in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and quite frankly if they’d asked me to read out the back of a cereal packet I’d have been there! But, I couldn’t be more thrilled to be cast in this fantastic original musical and to play the complex and challenging character of Myrtle”.

Ivo van Hove said today “After the success of A Little Life I am thrilled to return to the West End together with Wessex Grove to create a new musical. It is a dream come true to collaborate with the wonderful Rufus Wainwright, whose work I have been a fan of for so many years. We connected over our shared love of the incredible John Casavettes film Opening Night and it has long been an ambition of ours to bring a musical version to the stage. Opening Night not only gives us an insight into the trials and tribulations behind the scenes of the theatre, but it is also the heartbreaking story of a woman fighting for hope and self-determination in a world that doesn’t want to listen”.

Rufus Wainwright said today, “For me John Cassavetes’s movie Opening Night has long been a shining beacon representing both excellence in cinema and the might of live theatre. An intense marriage of film and stage it is about a very personal mental and creative survival that I think we can all relate to on a very deep human level. I’ve been waiting for ages to write my first musical and with this fantastic story plus the incomparable Sheridan Smith, not to mention the incredible Ivo van Hove, I don’t think I could have aimed any higher”. 



Sheridan Smith is an award-winning stage and screen actress, whose acclaimed West End credits include most recently playing the title role in Shirley Valentine at the Duke of York’s Theatre. Her performance as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde at the Savoy Theatre and as Doris in Flare Path at Theatre Royal Haymarket, both garnered her Olivier Awards, and the latter the Evening Standard Award as Best Actress. She received further Olivier nominations for her performance as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors at the Menier Chocolate Factory and Duke of York’s Theatre, and Fanny Brice in Funny Girl at the Savoy Theatre. Other notable performances include Hedda Gabler at The Old Vic, Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Noel Coward Theatre, the Narrator in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at the London Palladium, and her stage debut as Little Red Riding Hood in Into the Woods at the Donmar Warehouse. Amongst her prolific screen roles, Sheridan was Emmy-nominated and won a BAFTA as Mrs Biggs, and further BAFTA-nominated for The C Word and her titular role in Cilla, for which she was also Emmy-nominated. Big screen credits include Dustin Hoffman’s Quartet and most recently The Railway Children Return.  She has released two albums, titled Sheridan and A Northern Soul, resulting in two Classic BRIT Award nominations.

Opening Night musical
Rufus Wainwright, Sheridan Smith and Ivo Van Hove. Photo: Craig Sugden


Ivo van Hove is an award-winning auteur director who served as the General Director of the prestigious International Theatre Amsterdam (formerly Toneelgroep Amsterdam) from 2001 to 2023. His acclaimed productions continue to tour around the world and have earned him many international accolades, including a Tony Award, an Olivier Award, two Obie Awards, and multiple others in France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. van Hove is a Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres in France, a Commander of the Order of the Crown in Belgium, and the recipient of the 2019 Johannes Vermeer Award, the Dutch state prize of the arts. Broadway & West End highlights include Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life (most recently at the Harold Pinter Theatre and Savoy Theatre), West Side Story, The Human Voice with Ruth Wilson; Network with Bryan Cranston; The Crucible with Saoirse Ronan, Ben Whishaw, and Ciarán Hinds; A View from the Bridge with Mark Strong; All About Eve with Gillian Anderson and Lily James; and Lazarus, which he created with David Bowie and Enda Walsh.  Select International credits include Shakespeare’s Roman Tragedies and Kings of War, Ingmar Bergman’s Scenes from a Marriage, Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, Henrik Ibsen’s Hedda Gabler with Ruth Wilson, Luchino Visconti’s Obsession with Jude Law, Anne Carson’s translation of Antigone with Juliette Binoche, and Tennessee Williams’ La menagerie de Verre with Isabelle Huppert.  Opera directing highlights include Opera credits include The Case and Salome for Dutch National Opera; Boris Godunov and Don Giovanni for Paris Opéra; the world premiere Brokeback Mountain for Teatro Real Madrid; Macbeth for Opéra de Lyon; La clemenza di Tito and Idomeneo for La Monnaie De Munt; Der Ring des Nibelungen at Opera Antwerpen; Mazeppa for Komische Oper Berlin; Mahagonny in the Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and Don Giovanni and Dead Man walking at the Metropolitan opera in NY.


Praised by the New York Times for his “genuine originality,” Rufus Wainwright has established himself as one of the great male vocalists, songwriters, and composers of his generation. The New York-born, Montreal-raised singer-songwriter has released ten studio albums to date, three DVDs, and three live albums including the Grammy-nominated Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall. He has collaborated with artists such as Elton John, Burt Bacharach, Miley Cyrus, David Byrne, Boy George, Joni Mitchell, Pet Shop Boys, Heart, Carly Rae Jepsen, Robbie Williams, Jessye Norman, Billy Joel, Paul Simon, Sting, and producer Mark Ronson, among many others. He has written numerous songs for movies and TV and two operas. Prima Donna premiered at the Manchester International Festival with subsequent performances in London, Toronto, Hong Kong, the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, and the Festival d’Avignon among many others. Hadrian premiered in 2018 at the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto and a new semi-staged production featuring images by Robert Mapplethorpe premiered in the summer of 2022 at the Teatro Real in Madrid and the Peralada Festival. He has been working on his first musical for the West End with Ivo van Hove for a number of years. His latest GRAMMY® and JUNO nominated album of original songs, Unfollow the Rules, finds Wainwright at the peak of his powers, entering artistic maturity with passion, honesty, and a new-found fearlessness. His newly-released studio album Folkocracy marking his 50th birthday features reinvented folk classics and duets with artists like Chaka Khan, Brandi Carlile, John Legend and Anohni and many more.

Wainwright has now more recently completed a series of symphonic shows celebrating the 20th anniversary of his genre-defining albums: Want One and Want Two. The tour crossed the globe, including two Proms concerts at the Albert Hall in London in one night with the BBC Concert Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Ravinia Festival, and the Nashville Symphony at Americanafest. While in Nashville, Rufus performed at the Americana Awards, the legendary Bluebird Cafe, and had his premiere at the esteemed Grand Ole Opry. He has recently finished a sold-out 3 night retrospective covering over 75 songs from his extensive catalogue at the Philharmonie de Paris. Furthermore, Wainwright’s newly completed Requiem will premiere with the Orchestre Philharmonique de la Radio France in June of 2024. Co-commissioners for the Requiem are the Master Chorale in Los Angeles, the Palau de la Musica in Barcelona, the Helsinki Symphony Orchestra, the RTE Orchestra in Ireland, and the Royal Ballet London.


  • Director and Book – Ivo van Hove
  • Music, Lyrics and Orchestrations – Rufus Wainwright
  • Musical Supervision and Musical Direction – Nigel Lilley
  • Set, Lighting and Video Designer – Jan Versweyveld
  • Costume Designer – An D’Huys
  • Sound Designer – Tom Gibbons
  • Sound Designer – Alex Twiselton
  • Movement and Choreography – Polly Bennett
  • Associate Director – Daniel Raggett
  • Casting Director – Julia Horan CDG


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