One funny girl paid tribute to another on Wednesday as Sheridan Smith took time out from a glitzy West End opening to remember Victoria Wood.
“Victoria was one of my idols,” said the 34-year-old after taking her bows on the first night of Funny Girl at the Savoy Theatre, after transferring from the Menier Chocolate Factory.
“I grew up watching all her stuff and she was someone I really looked up to.”
“She was ridiculously talented so it’s a massive loss.”
Smith said that one celebrated Wood sketch – a parody of Cole Porter’s Let’s Do It in which Wood sang about having her bottom struck with a Woman’s Weekly – had had her “crying with laughter”.
“She had the ability to make you laugh and break your heart, within a second,” added the Cilla star, who plays vaudeville performer Fanny Brice in the London musical production.
Alison Steadman, Smith’s co-star in BBC sitcom Gavin & Stacey, said she had been a “huge fan” of Wood’s and had seen her perform at the Royal Albert Hall.
“She stood on that stage, in command of her audience, and was absolutely hilarious,” the actress recalled.
Steadman said she was “so shocked” to hear the news of Wood’s death as she had not been aware she was in ill health.
“She was delightful, talented and good fun, so it’s so sad,” she continued.
Comedian Marcus Brigstocke was another audience member with warm memories of Wood, calling her “breathtakingly funny and so full of heart”.
“Her comedy came from such a kind and loving place,” he told the BBC. “It always seemed to me to be very joyful.”
David Baddiel, Samantha Bond and Downton Abbey’s Sue Johnston were also at the Savoy Theatre to see Smith receive a standing ovation for her performance.
The actress has been praised for putting her own stamp on a role that Barbra Streisand famously played – to Oscar-winning effect – in the 1968 film.
Funny Girl runs at the Savoy Theatre until 8 October.