The new musical "Shida" is a solo show that is based on the true story of a young African-American girl in New York City who yearns to become a writer. Time Out New York contributing critic David Cote filed the following review.
A few seasons ago, actress Jeannette Bayardelle took over for LaChanze as Celie in "The Color Purple." She seems to have learned much from that Broadway hit, because her solo, "Shida," is a similar survivor drama. In it, a young woman undergoes terrible trauma to end up stronger and wiser.
Structured around 18 songs that span R&B, funk and pop, Shida's title character is a winsome schoolgirl who yearns to be a writer. Precocious, highly verbal and charming, Shida's path is violently interrupted when she's sexually molested by a friend of the family. Years of abuse send her into adolescence with emotional scars, culminating in an unwanted teen pregnancy.
Eventually, Shida gets a scholarship to NYU but her troubles aren't over. Hard drugs and toxic boyfriends enter the picture. I won't spoil the rest, but it gets grimmer before the light at the end of the tunnel.
Bayardelle is a radiant and assured performer, juggling multiple characters, she has an amazing blues and R&B belt, and her songs are catchy.
Unfortunately the story she tells is all too familiar, and although Shida is our hero, her character is not distinguished enough to make her more than a passive magnet for bad luck. The result is musically exciting but emotionally manipulative.
As musical drama, "Shida" has its shortcomings. As a showcase for a stage diva who can rattle the rafters, it may get you on your feet.