The plays, which ran in rep at the Menier through May 8, are again presented in rep, for a 16-week season. Meera Syal reprises her Menier performance in the title role of Gwen Walford's production of Shirley Valentine, and Laura Dos Santos once again plays Rita in Jeremy Sams' production of Educating Rita, newly joined by Tim Pigott-Smith as her Open University lecturer Frank. He replaces Larry Lamb, who played the part at the Menier.
Educating Rita was originally commissioned by the RSC, who premiered it at the Warehouse (now Donmar Warehouse) with Julie Walters as Rita in 1980, and subsequently transferred to the West End's Piccadilly Theatre. Walters reprised her performance in the 1983 film version. The play revolves around a Liverpudlian hairdresser who enrolls with the Open University after she discovers a passion for English literature.
Laura Dos Santos previously played the title role of Rita in a radio version of the play, opposite Bill Nighy, that was broadcast by BBC Radio 4 last Christmas. Her previous theatre credits include Look Back in Anger at Jermyn Street Theatre and Stags and Hens at Liverpool's Royal Court. Her TV credits include "Bad Girls," "Fingersmith," "Innocent Party" and "The Bill."
Pigott-Smith was last seen in the West End as Ken Lay in Enron at the Noel Coward Theatre, reprising the role he created at Chichester Festival Theatre's Minerva and London's Royal Court, and for which he was nominated for an Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. Other recent stage credits include Pygmalion (Old Vic), Little Nell (Bath Theatre Royal), Hecuba (Donmar Warehouse) and Mourning Becomes Electra (National Theatre). Film credits include "Alice in Wonderland," "Quantum of Solace," "V for Vendetta" and "Bloody Sunday." TV credits include "The Queen," "Midsomer Murders," "On Expenses" and "The Last Flight to Kuwait."
The play is directed by Jeremy Sams, whose recent directorial credits include The King and I (Royal Albert Hall), The Sound of Music (London Palladium, U.K. tour and Toronto), Donkey's Years (Comedy Theatre), Noises Off (National Theatre, subsequently transferring to West End and Broadway) and Jason Robert Brown's 13 (Broadway). Shirley Valentine received its world premiere in Liverpool in 1986, before opening in the West End two years later (in a different production) starring Pauline Collins in the title role, which she subsequently reprised on Broadway and in the film version. Glen Walford, who commissioned the play when she was artistic director of Liverpool's Everyman Theatre and directed its original production, directs Meera Syal in the title role. Syal is best known for her TV roles in the series "Goodness Gracious Me" and "The Kumars at Number 42" (for which she received a BAFTA nomination for Best Comedy Performance). She has appeared on stage in Rafta Rafta (National Theatre), The Vagina Monologues (West End) and Serious Money.
Both productions are designed by Peter McKintosh, with lighting by Paul Anderson and sound by David Ogilvy. The Willy Russell season is presented in the West End by David Babani for Chocolate Factory Productions and Sonia Friedman Productions, Tanya Link, Bob Bartner and Bob Boyett.
The plays, which will run in rep, are booking through Oct. 30. To book tickets, contact the box office on 0844 871 7632, or visit www.willyrussellseason.com for more details.