Shida is a new musical based on the true story of a girl growing up in the Bronx, a tough neighbourhood of New York in the nineties. As the eponymous character ages from nine into her twenties, we meet her mother, aged English teacher, her best friend and other assorted characters.
These are all well-defined, distinctive characters each with their own individual personalities and traits. But what makes these characters special is that they’re all played by the same actress, Jeannette Bayardelle who not only acts, sings and dances but wrote the book, music and lyrics. As someone once said, “What’s English for tour de force”!?
Originally performed Off Broadway in 2015, it makes its UK debut at The Vaults, which is the perfect space for this intimate story. We meet Shida as a bright, intelligent, energetic nine-year-old with a talent for writing who’s encouraged by her teachers to shine. However, she’s sexually abused by one of her Mother’s boyfriends, gets pregnant and mis-carries, all of which leads to a downward spiral into drugs and prostitution, taking her far away from what looked like a bright and hopeful future.
However, if this sounds like a grim, unrelenting story of a life, it’s far from it as Shida fights back with help from best friend Jackie finding redemption and salvation – this is a universal story that everyone can relate to.
Backed by a (sometimes a little too loud) four-piece band led by Noam Gilperin, Bayardelle’s voice is sensational. There are over twenty excellent songs running the gamut from vibrant soul, r&b, gospel and hip hop to Broadway musical theatre and gentle ballads and there isn’t a bad one amongst them.
Shida’s life is a rollercoaster and the audience lives it with her. Bayardelle’s powerful voice soars to the heavens she gives it her all in a bravura performance which deserves all the awards it will surely garner. Andy Sandberg who helped develop the show, directs with a deft touch and the transitions between characters are almost subliminal – a pair of glasses here, a shawl around the shoulders there.
At the end of this fabulous, uplifting seventy minutes or so, Bayardelle looks exhausted and elated at the same time and the audience leaves the theatre having seen not only a fantastic solo performance but enervated, energised and empowered by Shida’s story, wiping a tear from their eye having seen the best one woman (or man for that matter) show they may ever see.
It’s only on until October 13th so book your tickets now before the word gets out and it’s the sell-out it deserves to be.
Review by Alan Fitter
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.
Written and Performed by Jeannette Bayardelle
Directed by Andy Sandberg
Music Supervision by Joshua Zecher-Ross; Music Direction: Noam Galperin
Scenic Design: Charlie Corcoran; Sound Design: Chris Drohan
11 September – 13 October 2019