By: Patrick Christiano
The new musical Shida, written and performed by Jeannette Bayardelle, who played Celie on Broadway in The Color Purple and Dionne in Hair, debuted at Ars Nova on West 54th Street on July 31. The gospel singer Jeannette Bayardelle guided by director Andy Sandberg is extraordinary in the emotional journey set to a score of rock jazz, R&B and gospel. The 70 minute musical is a showcase for the leading lady’s unique gifts. In the space of just over an hour she embodies not only Shida’s melodramatic journey, but she displays sharp impersonations of her mother, teacher, best friend and a couple of lovers. Both script and director allow the actress to delve into each character for extended moments before transitioning into each new character or song, and the result is electrifying.
The press release states the solo musical is based on a true story of a young African-American girl, who aspires to become a writer. Shida begins as a happy little girl who longs to be a writer, however the tale traces her traumas, and challenges, which includes early and continued abuse by a trusted family. While the story takes her from St. Mary’s Catholic School in the Bronx to a scholarship at NYU, along the way her dreams become derailed by hardship and the loss of her mom leading Shida to promiscuity. When she becomes pregnant an abortion seems to be the only solution, but the shock triggers her decent into drugs and prostitution. Shida will struggle through to discover her true potential with the help of a deep faith and the aid of her friends.
If the story sounds familiar, Jeannette Bayardelle’s performance is totally surprising every step of the way as she touchingly inhabits several characters beautifully. Bayardelle, who won the NAACP Theater Award for Best Lead Actress in a Musical, delivers an touching tour de force with heart and soul. The dramatic songs showcase the star’s vocal and acting talents with beautifully filled stunningly realized moments that accumulate in richly inspiring evening. Bayardelle’s expressive voice is featured in the Disney film THE LITTLE MERMAID III. Her albums include "I Know Who I Am," "Praise Report" and "Transferable."
In New York Andy Sandberg directed the premiere of the musical THE LAST SMOKER IN AMERICA Off-Broadway and ZELDA AT THE OASIS (St. Luke’s). He has assisted legendary director Hal Prince on the Broadway production of LOVEMUSIK and received a Tony Award as a producer of the revival of HAIR. In London, he produced the world-premiere of the musical PARADISE FOUND, co-directed by Hal Prince and Susan Stroman at Menier Chocolate Factory.
SHIDA has scenic design by Charlie Corcoran, lighting design by Grant Yeager, costume design by Michael McDonald and sound design by David Sanderson. Musical direction is by Jesse Vargas. Music supervisor is Larry Lelli. Alexander Orbovich is General Manager for SHIDA.
Ms. Bayardelle performed a sold-out one-night-only concert version of SHIDA at Birdland in 2011 as part of the Broadway at Birdland series, and SHIDA subsequently received a workshop at Ars Nova as part of the Project Residency Initiative, both under the direction of Mr. Sandberg.