Egyptian star Sherihan to return to the stage in 'Coco Chanel' musical: 'I am happy'

The production will air on MBC's Shahid VIP service

Sherihan will star in 'Coco Chanel' on MBC's Shahid VIP.
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Sherihan Shalakani will make her stage return after a two-decade hiatus.

The Egyptian actor, singer and dancer, known simply as Sherihan, will star in Coco Chanel, a stage musical based on the life of the titular French fashion designer.

The production will screen on MBC's paid subscription service, Shahid VIP. While no release date is yet available, MBC is known to debut high-profile Arabic-language stage productions and films over the Eid holidays.

The next break, Eid Al Adha, is set to fall on Monday, July 19.

The trailer, which was released on Friday, shows a brooding Sherihan strolling amid an atelier while singing a forlorn ballad. The set is full of Parisian glamour with buildings at night hovering over male and female mannequins.

Sherihan, in regal dress and a glowering look, plays the part of the indomitable diva who revolutionised 20th-century European fashion with pioneering designs.

Back in her element

One of the reasons the trailer was trending on Twitter in the region over the weekend was because it provides a rare chance to see Sherihan, 56, in her element.

Fans got a taste of that in April, when she starred in a Broadway musical-style Ramadan advertisement for Vodafone Egypt.

Within four minutes, the production reminded us of a singular talent whose career once encompassed the stage, music, television and film.

For millions of Arab families during the mid-1980s, Sherihan was the face of Ramadan with her nightly shows.

Outside of the holy month, she built a strong career on the big screen with well-received roles in dramas such as Souk Al-Nisa'a (1994) and Gabr Elkhawater (1998).

The drama, however, was not limited to her profession. Sherihan's private life was also beset with setbacks that ultimately forced her to retire after 2001 film Al Eshk Wal Damm.

The queen of Ramadan

Born in Cairo, Sherihan got the performance bug aged 4. In previous interviews, she has said the early start was inspired by her brother, Omar Khorshid.

Nineteen years her senior, Khorshid built a career as a dazzling and dashing guitarist who accompanied some of the Arab world's greatest singers, including Egypt's Umm Kulthum and Abdel Halim Hafez, as well as Syrian-Egyptian Farid Al Atrash.

Khorshid died in a car crash in Giza in 1981, when Sherihan's career was taking shape at the age of 17.

At that stage she was considered a talent to watch, with strong performances in screen debut Ota Ala Nar (1977), alongside Farid Shawqi, and 1984 dark comedy Raya Wa Sakina.

While the film roles displayed her dramatic heft, her lighter side on television also captured the hearts of millions.

From 1960s to the mid-1980s, Ramadan television was defined by high-profile drama series and a genre known as "Fawazeers". Loosely translated as "riddles", these were essentially variety shows hosted by seasoned and new talents, and were a blend of music, sketch comedy and quizzes.

After dipping her toes into the genre with 1985's Alf Lela W Lela, featuring stories from 1001 Nights, Sherihan became a regional sensation in the following years by hosting Fawazir El Amthal, a top-rated show that ended its near 40-year run in 2000.

Through fun and puns, not to mention zany costumes and signature cat-eye make-up, each episode had Sherihan presenting a riddle to the audience who then had the chance to win prizes.

The series became such a hit that Sherihan returned to host a similar series in 1987 with Hawl Al Alam and 1993's Hagat We Mehtagat, all the while showcasing her acting work with darker turns in 1989's Al Morshed and 1990's Al-Aqrab.

In news that shocked the region, her career came to a halt in 1989 when a serious car accident left her nearly paralysed.

A planned comeback after 2001 film Al Eshk Wal Damm was also curtailed when Sherihan was diagnosed with salivary gland cancer, necessitating years of treatment.

Welcome back

After 19 years, Sherihan has emerged again to take control of her story. While we await Coco Chanel, her latest work points to a triumphant third act.

On April 12, a day before the release of the Vodafone Egypt advertisement, she described on Twitter her state of mind: “I am living in a moment of gratitude.

"I have been waiting for so long for a beautiful response [since] September 2002. My feelings are all confused, but I am happy."