by Vanessa Ullman
Photo courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter
Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived. Before this summer, this phrase might have only been known to those who took a European history course. Now, it’s the lyrics to the biggest new musical coming to Broadway in 2020.
“Six” is a contemporary retelling of King Henry VIII’s famous wives, all of whom had less than desirable lives, and several that resulted in early deaths. While this new version contains a lot of history, it is the pop and rap musical elements that keep it updated for a 2019 audience.
Created by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, the first run was at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017. The musical quickly became a success, and went on to be performed in London. Two years later, it arrived in the U.S., with a sold-out run in Chicago this past summer. Most recently, it just finished up a well-received run at the ART Repertory Theater in Cambridge, MA.
It is no surprise that the show has won over audiences. With a 75-minute, no intermission performance, the musical has an almost concert-like appeal. The six Queens: Aragon, Boleyn, Seymour, Cleves, Howard, and Parr, spend the show retelling their stories of being married to King Henry VIII, while trying to compete for who has the most tragic ending.
If it sounds boring, it’s not. Each queen’s sound is inspired by a current pop queen. From Ariana Grande-like high notes, to Beyoncé-esque ballads, the music is sure to make audience members feel like they’re listening to high quality concert music.
The staging, costumes and lyrics add to this contemporary feel. There’s jokes about selfies, swiping right on Tinder and other notes that make their struggles to deal with a horrible marriage feel quite modern.
Each actor is also afforded the opportunity to shine on their own, musically, something that is rare to see on stage. The women all have powerful voices, but it is a change of pace to see a musical where the singers are not singing in a traditional Broadway style. When a song inspired by Avril Lavigne is playing, the queen sounds like a genuine pop star, not a Broadway-style actor attempting to be a pop star.
It is a nice highlight when Jane Seymour’s moment to shine on stage hits more somber notes, as she sings about how she died right after her child was born. There’s also Catherine of Aragon’s high energy tune that kicks off the show, Katherine Parr’s beautiful love ballad to her former husband and four other Queen’s songs that each have their own flair.
Their uniqueness is also shown through their wardrobe. While the color black, chokers and sparkly elements are universal, each queen has her own flair. Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard both have dog tag necklaces with their initials on them, a subtle hint that they were the two who were unfortunately beheaded.
The show will now be making its way to Broadway in March 2020, as well as having a full North American tour and productions in Sydney, Australia and on Norwegian Cruise Lines. If you were not able to catch it in Boston, make plans to see it in New York this spring. These six fabulous women tell their stories in ways you will not have seen or heard before, and it’s about time you heard their voices.