Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced , Beheaded , Survived - SIX THE MUSICAL REVIEW
The Crowning glory of West End, Broadway and beyond , the international smash hit musical SIX makes a UK Tour return to the Grand Opera House this week following it's previous sell-out success.
Winner of Tony awards for 'Best Original Score' and 'Best Costume Design', double winner of the Whatsonstage Award for 'Best West End Show' amongst numerous Olivier and other awards plus a Gold Disk winning album, this sell-out Tudor take-off has an incredibly strong and powerful message and is pure entertainment. From Tudor Queens to Pop Icons, the six wives of Henry VIII take the microphone to tell their tales , remixing 500 years of historical heartbreak into a celebration of 21st Century girl power.
Writers Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss met at Cambridge University, shared a love of pop music and dancing, but it was whilst in their final year that they began to write together and, after a simple idea in a daydream, over the course of 10 days in 2017, they put together the basics for the show telling the tale of 6 awesome Queens who were married to the not-so-awesome Henry VIII. Instead of relegating the 6 wives to the famous mnemonic by which school children remember their fates, (Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived) the show , which is presented as a concert more than a musical, reincarnates them as powerful Queens with their own story to tell.
They created 6 substantive roles for women and intended them to be strong, regardless of size, shape, colour or creed. The show had humble beginnings in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, then transferred to the Arts Theatre London for a short 6 (but sell-out) performances and from there, the rest is history!
Six The Musical is a one-act musical of around 75 minutes. Although mostly sung-through ,there are some short dialogue scenes in between some of the songs. It is performed as a fictional singing competition where each of the wives are competing to be crowned the ultimate musical sensation-based on how much nonsense they had to put up with from Henry.
When the curtain opens, the queens are in silhouette. When lights go up , what looks like a simple black set consists of a proscenium arch which houses various lighting columns, and a semicircular platform framework with steps, which is backed by 8 vertical obelisks. The obelisks house various lighting designs which throughout the show cleverly represent church windows, castle turrets, a throne and indeed the word SIX. The lighting changes (which includes Strobe effects and theatrical haze) created different atmospheres from one song to the next and is seamless and extremely effective.
A four piece band named Ladies in Waiting are onstage at all times. Dressed in studded leather tops and leggings with a pearl headband (surely a nod to Jane Seymour) ,the drums ,keys, guitar and bass provide gutsy accompaniment.
The Six queens quickly set the scene and begin with the wonderful 'Ex-Wives' number, introducing themselves in their own individual ways before each gets their chance to tell their own story by way of her own solo number. Described by Marlow “Each queen as we imagined her has a few parallels in the modern day pop world and each song is influenced by a number of contemporary singers.”
Catherine of Aragon (excellently portrayed by Chloe Hart), kicks things off singing about how Henry wanted to annul their marriage. 'No Way', is a declaration to Henry that there is no way he is going to tell her what to do, showing feminist energy reminiscent of Beyonce's Single Lady and Run the World. Chloe's very strong vocals along with excellent diction , the sizzling instrumentals and unfaltering beat, provided one of the highlights for me.
Anne Boleyn (played with great comic timing by Jennifer Caldwell) effervescently sang 'Don't Lose your Head' reflecting the vivacious styles of Avril Lavigne and Lily Allen. Fun slang and quirky puns spotlight her carefree and feisty attitude. I noted she wore a green costume which must nod to Greensleeves (a poem reportedly written by Henry VIII for Anne).
Next up, Jane Seymour (wonderfully sung and played by Casey Al-Shaqsy) claimed to be the one he truly loved. Her beautiful 'Heart of Stone' reminded me of Adele ballads. A solemn piano and slow tempo created a mournful tone whilst she sang of giving the king his much wanted son but never saw him grow up having died in childbirth. I noticed her costume was white, fully sleeved and a longer skirt symbolising modesty and faithfulness-his one true love??
The tempo quickly resets to the wonderful upbeat 'House of Holbein' ,introducing us to Anna of Cleves, along with luminescent ruffle collars, sunglasses and fun choreography. Chosen by Henry based on her painting by German artist Hans Holbein, Anna takes centre-stage next in a dynamic celebration of hip-hop and dance elements. Played by Jessica Niles , 'Get Down' calls to mind the music of Rihanna. I noted Anna's red outfit and that she was the only one to wear shorts, symbolising her rebelliousness and free spirit.
Katherine Howard (Rebecca Wickes) sang 'All You wanna do', reminiscent of bubblegum pop-a catchy chorus, lively melody ,danceable beat but with a darker message. She embodied young popstars such as Britney Spears and portrayed the show's creators underscore of how the teenager was taken advantage of. (It is estimated she was 17 when she married the 49 year old king). She was scantily dressed in pink signifying youth.
Last up but definitely not least, Alana Robinson, in her UK debut, played a soulful Catherine Parr. Her rendition of 'I Don't Need Your Love' (where she sings about having to leave her love, Thomas Seymour, to marry the king as refusing his proposal is dangerous) was a beautiful melancholy turned empowering R&B ballad influenced by the soulful tunes of Alicia Keys. She is the only queen to wear trousers as she was seen as an intelligent ,wise feminist who outlived the king.
Realising how their lives have been defined by their relationship with Henry, the Six queens decide to cancel the contest as they come together to focus on themselves-'I don't need your love remix'. Closing the show the queens rewrite their stories ,singing a fictional account of how their lives panned out- 'SIX', before ending with the 'MegaSix' performance.
This was my second time seeing this smart , sassy show. I noticed details I hadn't before eg. The beheaded queens wore chokers, the bold use of colour in lighting also and how Six, the Musical is about collaborating rather than fighting. The attention to detail was indeed impressive.
This is an exhilarating, high energy show which is captivating. The glorious ending of the 'MegaSix' ,which had all of the audience on their feet clapping happily along ,proved this Tudor take-off was perfectly executed!
If you haven't yet seen Six the Musical, I thoroughly recommend you book tickets via goh.co.uk