Seemingly another product from the “we need another Hamilton” playbook (the other being the gender-swapped “1776”), “Six: The Musical” still succeeds in managing to be fresh, informative, and enormously entertaining.
Staged as a girl-group pop concert, “Six” tells the story of Henry the Eighth’s six wives who were either divorced, beheaded, died, or survived. In the swift 80-minute show, the six women tell the audience about their lives with Henry the Eighth, asking them to choose which wife had it the worst. (As we all know, Henry wasn’t a model of decorum and tranquility.) Told with humor, a bit of lip, and incredible vocals, the girls each get the spotlight, belting out a catchy pop song or ballad to tell their tales of woe.
Catherine of Aragon (Khalia Wilcoxon) opens the history lesson with “No Way,” which illustrates her plight as the wife of Henry’s brother, only to lose him and be forced to marry Henry, who then tries to have the marriage annulled.
Anny Boleyn (Storm Lever) creates a coquettish pop number with “Don’t Lose Your Head,” about her time as a lady-in-waiting for Catherine and who ends up marrying Henry before being ultimately beheaded.
Jane Seymour (Natalie Paris) belts the show’s sole power ballad, “Heart of Stone,” as Henry’s favorite wife (“the only one he truly loved”) and the one who loved him and stood by him regardless of his actions.
Anna of Cleves (Olivia Donalson) gives the audience a sassy number called “Get Down,” about how Henry chose her as his next wife based on a portrait but rejected her when he saw her. He still married her, and because she had a ton of money herself, she pretty much did what she wanted.
Katherine Howard (Courtney Mack) does her best Britney/Ariana with “All You Wanna Do,” explaining her history of bedding men for fun, which caused her arrest.
Lastly, we have Catherine Parr (Gabriela Carrillo), whose jazzy song “I Don’t Need Your Love,” tells the tale of her love for her fiancé, who she was ripped away from when Henry the Eighth decided he wanted to marry her.
Backed by an all-female band, the pop sextet dance and prance around the stage, slowly realizing that their ordeals can’t be put up for comparison and they should stick together. They do this while dazzling the audience with infectious pop songs and energetic performances.
All of the “Queens” are spectacular, with powerhouse voices and personality to boot. A big plus is the inclusion of Natalie Paris (as Jane), who comes direct from the original London cast, where she was nominated for an Olivier award.
Lighting and sound design are top-notch and get the audience in full pop-concert mode. Choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille is sharp and fun and reminiscent of any number of recent girl groups like the Spice Girls and Fifth Harmony.
While the musical as a whole is slight, it succeeds brilliantly in being a rousing history lesson while injecting catchy songs into the audience’s heads that they won’t soon forget. It’s definitely a perfect fit for a touring show, as evidenced by the general audience’s energetic reactions. (One guy started dancing in the aisle as one Queen grooved on stage.)
These Queens definitely slay, and while I can’t imagine what their real-life counterparts would think of their incarnations as pop stars if they were alive today, the women are honored and celebrated for their strength and accomplishments, not just how they suffered. This is a terrific reminder that we should stop defining ourselves by our traumas but rather by our triumphs.
These Queens rule and will absolutely make you lose your head over the enormous talent on display. “All You Wanna Do” is head to the box office and get your royal groove on because these ladies are waiting.