9 November 1967
Riding was born in Lancashire, England, growing up on a farm, where her father ran a successful cheese-making business. She received theatre training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School from 1985-1989.
After leaving school, she worked at Chichester Festival Theatre for a season, playing Anne Page in The Merry Wives of Windsor and Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. She met her former husband, actor Peter O'Brien, at Chichester. She was next cast as a replacement Sally in the West End production of Me and My Girl.
In 1993, Riding played the role of Julie Jordan in Nicholas Hytner's Royal National Theatre revival of Carousel and won the Olivier Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance. In 1995 she played Anne Egerman in A Little Night Music opposite Judi Dench, followed by Sarah Brown in Richard Eyre's acclaimed revival of Guys and Dolls, both at the National Theatre. She created the role of Jane Smart in The Witches of Eastwick in 2000, at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane and in 2003 played the role of Eliza Doolittle in Trevor Nunn's National Theatre revival of My Fair Lady, for which she won her second Olivier Award.
On May 12th 2002, she appeared in the Richard Rogers' Tribute Gala 'Some Enchanted Evening' at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane, which was broadcast on BBC Four and has since been released on DVD. At the concert she performed the song 'An Old Man' from Two By Two.
From 1 December 2008 to 29 May 2010, Riding starred as Mrs. Wilkinson in the London production of Billy Elliot the Musical at the Victoria Palace Theatre. She took maternity leave from the show between 23 December 2008 and 24 August 2009 when the role was played by Kate Graham.
In 2011, Riding starred in two musicals at The Gielgud Theatre in London's West End. From 5th March to May 21st, she played Madame Emery in the Kneehigh Theatre Company's musical adaptation of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg. The production had its try-out at Leicester's Curve Theatre from 11th to 26th February. A month later, from 6th June to 6th August, she played jealous Italian mistress Maria Merelli in the London production of Lend Me A Tenor.
In 2013 she appeared in the Sky1 TV comedy series Stella as Melissa.
Awards and nominations
- Olivier Award Best Actress in a Musical
- Carousel (1993) (winner)
- My Fair Lady (2003) (winner)
- Guys and Dolls (1997) (nomination)
- The Witches of Eastwick (2001) (nomination)
- Lee-Potter, Lynda."What the new My Fair Lady really thinks of Martine",Daily Mail (2002)
- Lewis, Katy. "Joanna's riding high!" BBC interview, 20 September 2004
- Cornforth, Paul. "Joanna Riding", "Theatre Interviews", rainbownetwork.com, 12 October 2000
- Senter, Al. "Spirited away - Joanna Riding", The Stage, 6 January 2005