This was my first experience of a one-person musical, so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was absolutely blown away. Shida is based on a true story about Jeannette Bayardelle’s childhood best friend’s life. The story is centred around Shida who aspires to be a writer and the ups and downs she goes through with her family and friends and partners.
Bayardelle is the writer, composer and performer of the piece and she is an absolute powerhouse
Bayardelle is the writer, composer and performer of the piece and she is an absolute powerhouse whose stamina and vocal ability is a masterclass in itself. Bayardelle is in complete control of her magnificent instrument and her stage presence has our complete attention as she belts her way through the 75-minute piece. She seamlessly moves from each well-defined character with subtle yet distinct character traits.
The clever and simple use of signature props or costume changes, alongside her physical and vocal choices made it clear who we are listening to and convinced us who was taking over the narrative. To me it is clear why Bayardelle is an award winner of the AUDELCO Award for Outstanding Solo Performance for this piece. Shida has already enjoyed a successful American tour which began Off Broadway and will only be here for five weeks for its London debut.
Directed by Andy Sandberg, you do not consider the limitation of The Vaults being without a backstage or wings as a hinderance but rather an enhancement to draw us into Shida’s world. The musicians are in plain sight (although concealed behind a cage, bass, Dave Rice; drums, Jon Desbrusiais, guitar, Connor Gallagher) and are led by musical director Noam Galperin (keyboard) who help create the spirit of the piece. The scenic (Charlie Corcoran), lighting (Clancy Flynn) and sound design (Chris Dohan) marry very well together to draw us in and capture the tragedy and strength in this true story. At times despite the powerful vocals of Bayardelle, the overall mix of sound meant that sometimes we were unable to hear every word, so we lost parts of the story.
Bayardelle is in complete control of her magnificent instrument and her stage presence has our complete attention as she belts her way through the 75-minute piece.
It starts with Shida coming through the audience singing “Let My Light Shine” to which she is referring to the light of her crack pipe. The story starts here and then flashes back to Shida as a young happy-go- lucky, bright child who has a strong talent and a desire to be a writer. We then follow her journey which starts of so full of promise, and are introduced to the characters, good and bad, who played a vital role in shaping her to the woman she grew into and the paths she took. Stand out songs for me were “I Would Never Tell” and “Rehab” where Bayardelle depicts harrowing moments with her incredible vocals to evoke desperation and turmoil. Ultimately, it is Shida’s desire to be a writer and her good friend Jackie that gives her the strength to help her to overcome her demons. Her triumph leads the audience to give a well-deserved standing ovation.
It is at the end that we discover that Jackie is actually Bayardelle, a touching way to remind us the truth in the story.
I am excited to see what Bayardelle’ will go on and produce next. This is on for five weeks, so you have to be swift to experience this for yourself. A great night out and well worth seeing the London debut by the formidable Jeannette Bayardelle of which I am now a fan!