Thursday, August 1, 2013

Inside Out, Outside In: A look at Jeannette Bayardelle's SHIDA

The one-woman musical is an intriguing idea, if not nerve-wracking one. Solo shows are hard enough to pull off without a musical element, but when you consider that Jeannette Bayardelle not only performs all the parts in her new musical, Shida, but wrote the book, music and lyrics, you start to wonder how it will all come together.

Shida is the titular character of this harrowing journey, which details the tragedies of this young girl's past that lead her from a promising future as a writer to a cocaine addict on the streets on New York. Ultimately a redemption tale, this character-focused show gives Bayardelle lots of places to shine as she embodies heartfelt characters that allow Shida to eventually find her way back home.

The piece is a great platform for Bayardelle, as her voice takes on difficult notes without abandon. She's got some powerful pipes, for sure, and total commitment in tackling the show's tougher scenes. The lyrics to the songs have some really poignant moments with some nice motifs weaved throughout. The characters also have distinct voices and populate the story with lovable people.

Perhaps most of all, one thing I've noticed with a lot of new musical theatre is that there's not a lot of diversity in the types of stories it tells, especially if it's not a period piece. Watching Jeannette Bayardelle do her thing, I couldn't help remembering a friend talking about how often you just have to create the parts for yourself if they're not out there. Bayardelle has certainly done that and given herself a meaty role to tackle. She definitely has a voice, both in performance and on the page, and it's worth checking out if you want to explore something new.

Shida plays at Ars Nova until the end of August-- buy your tickets here.

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