Actor Sheila Smith Dies at 90 | Playbill

Obituaries Actor Sheila Smith Dies at 90

Ms. Smith served as the standby for both Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur in the original Broadway production of Mame.

Actor Sheila Smith passed away November 30, as confirmed by her longtime agent Steven Unger. She was 90 years old.

Ms. Smith made her Broadway debut in 1963's Hot Spot opposite Judy Holliday. As of 2023, Ms. Smith was one of the few performers left from the original Broadway production of Mame, where she served as the standby for both Angela Lansbury as Mame and Bea Arthur as Vera. For her efforts, Ms. Smith was awarded the Theater World Award, and at various periods in 1967, Ms. Smith took over for both legends to great acclaim.

In 1969, she starred as Mame in the first national tour before returning to New York to appear in the original Broadway production of Stephen Sondheim's Follies, standing by for both Alexis Smith and Yvonne DeCarlo. 

In a particularly memorable chain of events, Follies director Hal Prince asked her to simultaneously stand by for Jane Russell as Joanne in Company during the run of Follies. One evening, after stepping in for Yvonne DeCarlo to perform as Carlotta, Ms. Smith found herself shuttled between the two theatres, finishing the song "I'm Still Here" and then quickly changing costumes to immediately step in for Ms. Russell to sing "The Ladies Who Lunch" in the second act of Company. She is, as far as is known, the only actress to appear on Broadway in two different Sondheim musicals in the same evening.

Ms. Smith would later leave Follies to originate the role of Sweet Sue in the Jule Styne musical Sugar. Her other Broadway credits include the original production of 42nd St, The 5 O’Clock Girl, and the 1993 Hal Prince revival of Show Boat

On tour, in addition to the aforementioned Mame, she appeared with Tallulah Bankhead in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1956, as Golde in Fiddler on the Roof opposite Hershel Bernardi, in the original national tour of Equus opposite Brian Bedford, and in the national tour of La Cage Aux Folles.

Smith appeared in the Chicago premiere of Follies, No, No, Nanette with Ruby Keeler, Forty Carats with Joan Fontaine, and The Sound of Music with Shirley Jones. Ms. Smith created the role of Janet in the Off-Broadway musical Taking My Turn, which was filmed for PBS, and she played the role of Mitzi in a revival of Fiorello! at City Center, before replacing Eileen Rodgers as Reno Sweeney in the acclaimed 1962 Off-Broadway revival of Anything Goes. 

In lieu of a public service, Ms. Smith's family asks that donations be made in her honor to the Entertainment Community Fund.

Look Back at Angela Lansbury in the Original Broadway Production of Mame

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