SIX is a modern retelling of the lives of the wives of King Henry VIII of England presented as a pop concert, as the Queens take turns singing and telling their story to see who suffered the most due to Henry and should, therefore, become the group’s lead singer.
First is the fiery Catherine of Aragon (Phoenix Jackson Mendoza), who remained married to Henry for 24 years before their marriage was annulled after enduring his years of infidelity (No Way). Next, party girl Anne Boleyn (Kala Gare), who flirted with other men to make Henry jealous, which lead to her being beheaded (Don’t Lose Ur Head). Then the gentle Jane Seymour (Loren Hunter), who died shortly after giving birth to the future King Edward VI (Heart of Stone).
Henry’s fourth wife, the boisterous Anne of Cleves (Kiana Daniele) was rejected by Henry after only six months of their unconsummated marriage, who, after the annulment, was given a generous fortune as well as her own palace (Get Down). Then, the promiscuous flirt and hopeless romantic, Katherine Howard (Chelsea Dawson) who recounts her many suitors before she was ultimately beheaded for her adultery (All You Wanna Do). Lastly, the highly educated author, Catherine Parr (Vidya Makan) who, after the deaths of her first two husbands, was married to Henry until his death in 1547 (I Don’t Need Your Love).
SIX is not your average musical – it’s part Horrible Histories (the British children’s live-action historical and musical sketch comedy television series, based on the bestselling book series of the same name by Terry Deary), part rocking pop concert and, at one time, part Eurovision.
Part Horrible Histories for telling history through humour and song. Part rocking pop concert because it’s the six leads on stage backed by a band. And part Eurovision because, well, without spoilers, the song Haus of Holbein would kill at the European song contest!
SIX is still a relatively new production. It made its debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017 before heading to London’s West End and North America. It was later affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with postponements across the UK and Ireland, the US, Australia, and New Zealand.
There are no sets, no costume changes, and no liner story – just a stage, a band (keys, drums, guitar, and bass), some clever lighting by Tim Deiling, and impressive dance numbers orchestrated by choreographer Carrie-Anne Ingrouille. For all intents and purposes, it’s a pop concert with a story. But from the opening number, Ex-Wives, you know you’re in for a great time!
There are no weak players. From the band to the performers, each queen holds her own against the next – Shannen Alyce Quan stood in for Makan on opening night and was no exception.
Writers Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss have taken some creative license not only in the appearance of the queens, costumes, format, and overall fun tone of the show but as well as injecting modern day language and elements, such as social media and dating apps. While some songs are stronger than others (with each of the songs crafted to showcase the individual characters created for each of the Queens, so there’s bias here), the audience are encouraged to join in.
Each queen is an amalgam of current pop stars – Catherine of Aragon (Beyonce and Shakira), Anne (Lily Allen and Avril Lavigne), Jane (Adele and Sia), Anna (Nicki Minaj and Rihanna), Katherine (Ariana Grande and Britney Spears) and Catherine Parr (Alicia Keys and Emeli Sandé). This too is represented in the flashy, sassy, and colourful Tony Award-winning costumes designed by Gabriella Slade. The Tudor elements of corsets and puffed sleeves are mixed in with the popstar glamour of today including short skirts, metal spikes and glitzy sparkly boots.
As a lover of extravagant sets, of which SIX has none, I have little complaints. For a difficult time in history, the musical itself is creative, inspiring, and ultimately feel good. I learned many things, had a good laugh, and left the theatre feeling empowered and joyful. And the soundtrack is one you’ll have on repeat for many weeks, if not years, to come. All I Wanna Do is my personal fav!
There’s a reason SIX is the longest running production in Sydney Opera House Studio history. If you’re a regular theatregoer expecting a musical set in Tudor England, you may get a rude awakening. But if you’re someone who enjoys a high octane energetic concert (though it does have its soft moments) and a few laughs; packed with pure fun and entertainment, this pop musical is one not to be missed!
The queens will be appearing at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre until August 7th before heading to New Zealand and Brisbane (dates to be announced). It is recommended for persons aged 10+.
For more information including ticket information, head to Australia • Home | Six the Musical