Broadway Review | ‘Six’ finally gets its royal opening night, finally
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Tudor royalty meets “The Real Housewives”, “The First Wives Club” and the sounds and styles of major pop divas (including Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Lily Allen, Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande, Christina Aguilera and Rihanna, to name a few) in the moving and frothy musical “Six,” which takes the form of an 80-minute electro-pop concert starring the six notorious wives of King Henry VIII.
“Six” was born improbably as a school project of Cambridge students Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. Since its premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017, “Six” has toured the UK, London’s West End, Australia, toured North America and even on Norwegian Cruise Line ships. A 2018 studio album was released 47 million times in 2019.
In March 2020, the show premiered on Broadway. But just hours before its first performance, Broadway closed its doors due to COVID-19. (My review of the show, which was due to be released the next morning, had to be withdrawn due to the circumstances.) Fittingly, “Six” is now the first new musical to open on Broadway since the closing – with its original distribution in tow.
After having repeated the famous nursery rhyme for children on their destiny (“Divorced, beheaded, dead; divorced, beheaded, survivor”), the six wives (in sumptuous, spiky, tinted metal costumes) present themselves in chronological order: Catherine of Aragon (Adrianna Hicks), Anne Boleyn (Andrea Macasaet), Jane Seymour (Abby Mueller), Anna of Cleves (Brittney Mack), Katherine Howard (Samantha Pauly) and Catherine Parr (Anna Uzele).
The women (portrayed with vigor and sex appeal by the diverse six-member cast) are said to have formed a group that is now going on tour. They agree that the lead singer will be the one who suffered the most misfortune at the hands of Henry VIII, so each performs a solo about her life and destiny. At the time of the festive finale and the encore mega-mix (titled the “megasix”), they decide to put aside self-objectification and patriarchy and embrace each other.
Their songs are powerful, extremely catchy, and surprisingly layered, full of clever puns, historical tidbits, and character development. (I have to admit that I have listened to countless times the 42 minute cast album.) One of the most notable is Anne Boleyn’s “Don’t Lose Ur Head” in the style of a naughty schoolgirl, in which she mischievously claims that she is “sorry not sorry” about the king’s temptation to let Catherine of Aragon start “the C of E” (ie Church of England) .
Despite the dynamic score, “Six” is weighed down by a laborious book (which is built around a fragile setup and mundane jokes), basement stage design, and awkward dance choreography. That being said, ‘Six’, which was eagerly awaited before closing, still has the makings of a solid hit. The story-meet-contemporary pop concept has certainly worked well for a little show called “Hamilton”, and it’s easy to imagine “Six” attracting teenage girls, history buffs and many more.
“Six” plays an open race at the Brooks Atkinson Theater. 225 W. 47e St., sixthmusical.com.