This week Playbill catches up with Jeannette Bayardelle, a 2022 Tony nominee for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Musical for her work as Mrs. Neilsen in the Conor McPherson-Bob Dylan, Tony-nominated musical Girl From the North Country at the Belasco Theatre.
Bayardelle has also been seen on Broadway in Hair and The Color Purple, while her Off-Broadway credits include Rock of Ages, Girl From the North Country, and Shida the Musical, which she also wrote. The Bronx native can be heard in Disney’s Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning, and she wrote and starred in the web series I Take Thee Zoe.
Congratulations on the Tony nomination. What does it mean to you to receive a Tony nomination this season?
Receiving a Tony nomination this season means so much. It hasn’t been an easy journey. Girl From the North Country opened in 2020, 2021, and 2022. We have been fortunate enough to weather the many storms that the pandemic threw our way. The seven nominations we have received is a true testament of resilience. When you have something good, magical, and brilliant, you push through every obstacle. I am grateful. It was worth the fight.
This has been an unprecedented time in Broadway history. What have been some of the challenges and rewards of performing live during this time?
As we all know, the last three years have been extremely challenging. Performing live during times like these were both difficult and rewarding. Throughout managing COVID outbreaks that would ultimately penetrate our company, to feeling the uncertainty of theatregoers as they bravely still came out to support theatre with vaccine cards and masks, there was a silver lining. The ability to transport one's reality and pour hope, love, and peace into their spirit through our work on stage was a great reward. We pressed on so that they could, too.
Are there any parts of your role or the play that seem particularly poignant/relevant following the events of the past two years?
Absolutely. My character, Mrs. Neilsen, is extremely optimistic. The world could be falling apart around her, but she always had a plan to persevere. The theatre community as a whole had to adapt this mindset, as we didn’t know how or when, but we knew we would be back stronger than ever.
What would you say to audience members who may be feeling uneasy about returning to live theatre?
Be safe, cautious, and respectful, but don’t deprive yourself of the joy of live theatre. Theatre is therapy. Your healing is on Broadway.
What, if anything, did you learn about yourself during the past two years that you didn't already know?
I learned that I am stronger than I thought, and I am not as strong as I thought.
Do you have any other stage or screen projects in the works?
I have been developing my musical Shida for many years. It’s a show that I’ve written based on a true story of my childhood best friend. I started working on this piece when I was in Hair on Broadway, and that’s when I first connected with my director Andy Sandberg. We have since developed the show at Ars Nova, A.R.T., and other venues around the country. Just before the pandemic, we had an incredible run across the pond in London. Though I can’t say too much yet, there are some exciting plans in the works for Shida. This show is so special, and I can’t wait to share it with more audiences.