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Interview with Jeannette Bayardelle – SHIDA

Jeannette Bayardelle. Credit - Walter McBride
Jeannette Bayardelle. Credit – Walter McBride

The UK première of the hit Off-Broadway musical SHIDA, written and performed by Jeannette Bayardelle – opens at The Vaults from 11th September – 13th October 2019.

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.

Read our interview with Jeannette Bayardelle.

Can you tell us how SHIDA was created?
Jeannette: I was in the musical Hair on Broadway, and when we got notice that the show was closing, I had this thought: “I should write a musical.” As soon as the thought came, I knew exactly what I wanted it to be about. Growing up in the Bronx, there were so many challenges that I faced and witnessed. Because of my strict upbringing, I was able to avoid many of the pitfalls. Unfortunately, that was not everyone’s story. My childhood best friend had been through so much and overcame so much that I felt like I really wanted to tell her story because I knew it would empower others.

How did you decide on the score?
Jeannette: I just started to write what I felt. It was surreal. There were days I would sit in my home studio and create. Then there were other days when a melody would just pop into my head and I would pull out my recorder. The voices of these characters encompassed so many different musical styles, and as the characters evolved, of course, the music evolved with them. By the end of the process, I had a score with flavors of gospel, rock, soul, jazz, R&B, and so much more.

Can you tell us about the Off-Broadway run?
Jeannette: We did a six-week limited run at Ars Nova in New York City. It was a great experience. We had worked with Ars Nova in developing the show through their Project Residency program, The audiences for the Off-Broadway run really enjoyed the show. Like the Vaults, Ars Nova had a certain intimacy that really invited people to engage. They would cry, laugh, and cheer. When the real Shida would come to watch the show, the audience would bombard her with hugs and gratitude for surviving her life’s challenges and overcoming.

How has the story inspired your you and your career?
Jeannette:  This story has inspired me in so many ways. For one, the process alone has taught me the importance of perseverance. Creating this piece has stretched me and allowed me to share the different gifts I’ve been blessed with, and it’s been particularly rewarding to honor my childhood friend’s journey. As far as the story, it encourages me to know that there are little girls like Shida who may fall on hard times but with the help of family, friends, and self-love, they can get back up and find success.

Can you tell us about The Color Purple and Girl from the North Country on Broadway?
Jeannette:  Playing Celie in The Color Purple was life-changing. It was my very first Broadway show. I remember the night I stepped on the stage for the first time. I felt so many things. I was excited, nervous, and afraid. I remember telling myself: “J, you have to do it afraid.” Those words gave me the inspiration I needed, and the show was great. Years later, “Do it afraid” is still my motto.

Then last fall, I had the privilege of playing Mrs. Neilson in Girl From The North Country at The Public Theater in NYC… another life-changing experience Working with Conor McPherson was amazing. The entire creative team and cast I consider family. It’s such a beautiful piece of theatre. Singing Bob Dylan songs every night was so satisfying. I am a huge Bob Dylan fan. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to meet him… it was one of the best moments in my life.

What should audiences expect from SHIDA at The Vaults?
Jeannette: Audiences should expect a beautifully intense rollercoaster ride. Shida’s journey will allow you to experience a bunch of emotions. You’ll laugh, cry, cheer, and clap.

Why should theatregoers get along to see SHIDA?
Jeannette:  Because it’s a story of hope and overcoming. I wrote Shida to entertain, but also to inspire and enlighten. So often we see people in unfortunate situations, and we don’t have a full understanding of the circumstances that led them to that place. Shida gives you an inside look at the life of a girl who had big dreams and a beautiful spirit, but times got heavy and caused her to fall off course. Thankfully, she was able to get back on track and have a second chance at life – that is the story we want to tell, and we hope you’ll join us in London to experience it!

Shida UK Limited, Callum Dougherty & Alan Kay, Judith Manocherian and Jim Glaub / Crystal Chase /
Julian Roca present
the UK première of
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
The Vaults
11 September – 13 October 2019
Press night: Friday 13 September, 7pm


  • Neil Cheesman

    First becoming involved in an online theatre business in 2005 and launching londontheatre1.com in September 2013. Neil writes reviews and news articles, and has interviewed over 150 actors and actresses from the West End, Broadway, film, television, and theatre. Follow Neil on Twitter @LondonTheatre1

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