Theatre Lovers! Here’s one to look out for. The newest British export on the horizon – SIX: The Musical, a flashy new show by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss about the six wives of Henry VIII of England, reimagined as a Tudor girl group with a more than passing resemblance to the Spice Girls. The wives; the pious Catherine of Aragon, the clever Anne Boleyn, the demure Jane Seymour, the rejected Anne of Cleves, the flippant Catherine Howard, and the reluctant Catherine Parr – purr, harmonize, and belt in perfect synchronicity as the curtain goes up. Each laying their case in turn before the feet of the audience to judge which among them suffered the most at the hands of the terrible man who erased their identities and brought their fates together as “one of the six”.
Catherine of Aragon, launches into an anthem of resistance against Henry the VIII’s demand for a divorce that delightfully reminds one of Beyonce with its strong drumline and soul. “No Way” is a defiant, confident song that mirrors the strength of conviction of the historical Queen, who firmly maintained that she was the one, true Queen of England till she died. Anne Boleyn’s aptly titled “Don’t Lose Your Head” is a coquettish bubblegum track that shifts from sickly sweet to downright harsh, much like the clever, outspoken second wife. “Heart of Stone” is a heartfelt, bittersweet, love song, sung by Jane Seymour, Henry VIII’s honored third wife who bore him the only male child he would have, only for her to die immediately after. Widely considered to be the King’s favourite wife, the song poses the question historians have been debating: Was she really his favourite, or did she just die before he got tired of her?
After a brief, fun little “Eurovision” interlude welcoming you to the “Haus of Holbein”, we are introduced to Henry VIII’s failed Tinder matchup, Anne of Cleves. The funky and gritty “Get Down” allows us a glimpse into the relatively luxurious life of the King’s rejected wife, who seems to have everything, but was unfairly branded as physically undesirable. Catherine Howard’s aggressively sexy “All You Wanna Do” recounts the history of Wife Number Five that reveals the string of men who she was involved with. It’s heartbreaking in a way because it’s apparent that of all the women presented thus far, she is the one who lacked agency the most: and as such, she was always subject to the whims and pleasure of the men around her, and led to her being beheaded upon allegations of adultery and treason. Catherine Parr rounds out the group with her soulful “I Don’t Need Your Love”, recounting the way she gave up her love for Thomas Seymour (brother to Wife Number Three, Jane Seymour, BTW), in the name of duty when Henry VIII came calling.
The musical style of SIX: The Musical is a fascinating mix of the current and the traditional. Each Queen has their own sound, from hip-hop, R&B, Europop, and Soul that all melts together into a glorious mélange of melodies that are guaranteed to keep you grooving all day long. A pleasant surprise is how Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss weaved Tudor chords, references, themes, and instruments into the music: Greensleeves, for example, traditionally attributed to a poem Henry VIII allegedly wrote for Anne Boleyn makes an appearance in the score.
At the core of this show is the message of empowerment and a reminder that history is often written by the victors. It invites the audience to look closer, to see past the glitter, and see the very human stories behind these historical figures. There is no historical basis for the sweet finale, but it does speak a certain truth: Given the extraordinary circumstances these women lived in, barring the absurd anachronism of the term, they would make one hell of a girl band. And one you can totally get behind.
“Six: The Musical” is Broadway-bound, previews start in February 2020, opening on March 12, 2020 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. The Studio Recording is available for streaming at Apple Music and Spotify.
Ryan Robert Flores is a former stage performer, and a massive theatre nerd. He travels for food and is a gourmand who likes to think of himself as an International Bear of Mystery, but is really just a sucker for the perfect Creme Brulee. When not being totally irresponsible, he works as a Product Development Manager for a Tech Company in Manila.