'I want audiences to be inspired & enlightened': Jeanette Bayardelle on bringing her New York hit Shida to London

23 Sep
Author: Staff
Jeanette Bayardelle in Shida

Broadway star Jeanette Bayardelle has made her London stage debut in her highly personal one-woman musical SHIDA. It's an "astonishingly powerful performance" of a "visceral and unapologetic examination of life derailed". We've rounded up review highlights to date. Time to get booking! 

Set to a soulfully contagious score of rock, jazz, R&B, and gospel music, SHIDA is based on the true story of a young African-American girl who aspires to become a writer, tracing the ups and downs of her family, friendships, and love life – from the double-dutch court at St Mary’s Catholic School in the Bronx to a scholarship at NYU. Her dreams become sidetracked by hardship and loss until her faith and those closest to her combine to restore Shida’s hope and give her a second chance.

SHIDA, written and performed by Jeanette Bayardelle, is inspired by her childhood best friend. Andy Sandberg directs.

Audience reactions

Talking to... Jeanette Bayardelle

Making her London stage debut, Jeannette Bayardelle reprises her title role in Shida, for which she won an AUDELCO Award for Outstanding Solo Performance and ab IRNE Award nomination for Best Solo Show in 2015. Her other US theatre credits include Girl from the North Country (The Public Theater and the forthcoming Broadway transfer), The Color Purple (Broadway/US tour, winning the NAACP Theater Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical), Hair, The Best of Both Worlds, Rock of Ages, Sister Act, Big River, Freaky Friday and Rent. Bayardelle’s albums include I Know Who I Am, Praise Report and Transferable.

Tell us a little about the real-life Shida.

The real Shida is my childhood best friend. We grew up together in The Bronx, New York. She was so smart and always dreamed of becoming a writer. Unfortunately, her plans were derailed due to a series of unfortunate events.

Why did you want to write a musical about her? 

I felt her story would resonate with so many people. Many of us lose our way along our life journey. Different circumstances cause us to take unexpected turns. In all of that, there is always hope, and Shida’s is a story of hope.

What are your musical influences for the show? 

So many musical styles have been a part of my life, and all of those are reflected in this score - gospel, R&B, jazz, classical, and musical theatre. 

Do you have a favourite line in the show?

That’s so hard to answer, but if I had to pick one, there’s a line where the title character of Shida says:

“Some write stories to recount the past, but I write mine to open the minds of the future.” 

What were some of the highlights from the New York run? 

It was incredibly special having the real Shida in the audience and seeing her respond to the show as she shared that experience with the audience. They loved when she was in the house. 

Have you changed anything for the London season?

Yes.  We’ve continued to develop the script and score over the years.  In our recent rehearsals for London, we even added a new song called “I Believe”. It’s a really special moment that gives a musical voice to one of the characters who didn’t previously sing in the show.

In a nutshell, why should audiences see Shida?

Shida is a story of hope and overcoming. I want audiences to be inspired and enlightened. So often, we see people in unfortunate situations and don’t have a full understanding of what circumstances have led them to that place. Shida gives you an inside look on the life of a girl who had big dreams but life got heavy and caused her to derail. Thankfully, she gets back on track and gets a second chance at life.

We’re a big fan of your Broadway Shorts videos. How did these come about? 

I get brought in for a lot of shows, which means I have to learn a lot of songs. Not too long ago, I decided, since I have to learn these songs anyway, I should create videos of my interpretation of the songs in the context of the scene. They were all so fun to make and share, but I suppose my two favourites at the moment are “Satisfied” from Hamilton and “Me and the Sky” from Come From Away

Will you do a West End short while you’re in London?

We’ll see!  I’d like to – the only problem is I haven’t had a free night to see any other shows!  I need to come back and take it all in. There is so much amazing theatre happening here.

Anything else you’d like to add? 

It has been a wonderful run thus far in London. The reception has been overwhelming and I am truly humbled. We’re here through 13 Oct, so please come see us at The Vaults! 

SHIDA runs from 11 September to 13 October 2019 at The Vaults, Launcelot Street off Lower Marsh, London SE1 7NN with performances Tuesdays to Saturdays at 8pm, Sundays at 6pm and matinees Thursdays and Saturdays at 3.30pm. Tickets are priced £15-35. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!