Princess Diana has a movie and a musical coming soon (the latter already filmed and available on Netflix) but right now it’s the queens who are the talk of the town. Maybe you’ve seen the BBC’s The Six Wives of Henry VIII, Showtime’s The Tudors, Richard Burton, Charles Laughton or some other padded Brit as the temperamental Henry–but you’ve never seen anything like Six, which reimagines these divas of 500 years ago as sexy songbird sirens of today, warbling power ballads and otherwise raising the roof at the Brooks Atkinson. It’s royally entertaining.
With endlessly clever book, music, and lyrics by Cambridge University students Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, Six began as an Edinburgh Festival Fringe production in 2017, and despite posher accommodations on the West End and Broadway it retains its cheeky, let’s-put-on-a-show spirit. The premise is simple, ingenious, and fun: stepping out of Henry’s shadow, his six wives (“Divorced, beheaded, died…divorced, beheaded, survived,” goes the opening lyrics) doll themselves up in spangly reality show finery and prepare to sing and strut for their supper. It’s a contest–which wife was most wronged by their mercurial, tyrannical husband? If you’ve forgotten the specifics, be sure to look at the Playbill beforehand, which offers “a little bit of her-story” and tips off the “queenspirations,” who include Beyoncé, Adele, Nicki Minaj, and Alicia Keys…or just let the show carry you along on its sky-high spirits.
Meet the ladies: Catherine of Aragon (Adrianna Hicks), who’s telling Henry she’s not going (but gets dumped anyway); Anne Boleyn (Andrea Macaset, whose number is up with “Don’t Lose Ur Head”); Jane Seymour (Mallory Maedke, the show’s dance captain, at my performance), changing the hard-charging game with the plaintive “Heart of Stone”; Katherine Howard (understudy Courtney Mack at my performance), recalling tales of woe at the hands of men; and Catherine Parr (Anna Uzele), the last woman standing on the marital merry-go-round. It’s she who suggests a grrl power solution to the eternal catfights, which ends the show on an up beat that’s very now…but the night I saw Six the show was clearly stolen by Brittney Mack’s hilariously bling-slinging Anne of Cleve, who figures that living well is the best revenge when she disappoints Henry. Everyone got up for her big number “Get Down”…yas queen, as the kids say.
That said Mack’s first among equals in a demanding show, which has the delectably delightful ensemble up on their feet and busting moves tightly choreographed by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille for most of its 80 minutes. Co-directed by Moss and Jamie Armitage, Six has been given a rousing concert staging, with an LED wall and moving lights that flash glints of royal golds, reds, and greens off the metallic costumes. (Emma Bailey is the scenic designer; Tim Deiling is on lights; and Gabriella Slade is the costume designer, with Paul Gatehouse pumping up the volume on sound design.) Set to open the night everything closed down last year this is the sort of smart party show Broadway needs right now. It’s…Sixsational.