Six English queens have their day on Broadway’s Six
Six English queens have their day in a flashy new Broadway musical.
Broadway review by Adam Feldman
Who doesn’t love a royal wedding? Broadway’s catchy musical Six loudly celebrates the union of English dynastic history and modern pop music. On a simulated concert stage, supported by an all-female group, the six wives of 16th-century monarch Henry VIII voice their grievances through singing, and most of them have cause for complaint: two were beheaded, two were divorced, one died shortly after childbirth. In this self-proclaimed “histo-remix”, members of the long-suffering sextet turn their pain into bops; the queens sing aloud and the audience loses their minds.
Maybe it’s for the best, because Six is not a show to think about too much. Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss wrote it while they were still students at Cambridge University, and it feels like a very entertaining senior showcase. Its 80 minutes are filled with clever rhyme tricks and catchy pastiche melodies that allow mega-voiced singers to toss awesome ‘riffs to ruffle your strawberries’. The show’s own riffs on the story are also educational, like a cheeky new UK edition of School rock. While all of these appetizers don’t quite add up to a meal, they are undeniably tasty.
Aside from the opening number and the final and a detour in Sprockets– German club dance style, Six is dedicated to giving each of the queens – let’s call them the Slice Girls – a moment each in the spotlight, decked out in sparkling, jewel-encrusted Gabriella Slade outfits that are Tudor by way of Starlight Express. Patron Saint Catherine of Aragon (Adrianna Hicks) sings a provocative Beyoncé-style number, and an ostensibly carefree Anne Boleyn (Andrea Macasaet, imperturbable and funny) gets a song from Avril Lavigne. Serious Jane Seymour (Abby Mueller) takes Sia’s route, while Anna of Cleves (Brittney Mack) tears up a Nicki Minaj – ian banger. Katherine Howard (Samatha Pauly), under Ariana Grande’s fountain ponytail, stars as “All You Wanna Do”, a sexy pop princess who turns sour. (May be SixThe most ambitious song of – it’s the only one that involves a true dramatic arc – it’s also the least well conceived. But on a show as meta-meta as this, it can be an intentional blow to the pop lyrics writing.)
It ultimately falls to Catherine Parr (Anna Uzele), the surviving wife, to try and add the big numbers of the series into a sum, and that’s when Six signals a little. The show is carried out with the energy Let’s keep this party-going by Moss and Jamie Armitage, supported by the formations of Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s choreography, but her girl-power side cannot support it forever. In the heart, Six is a glittering lark—Hamilton Extra Lite, with the multiculturalism and anachronism and dropping names but without the intrigue, emotion and depth – and by the finale you can feel it grabbing for cohesion: six looking characters of a binding author concept. But who these days expects any royal wedding to end perfectly? Six is not deep. Six is funny. Let go and enjoy the adornment.
Six. Brooks Atkinson Theater (Broadway). Book, music and lyrics by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. Directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage. With the whole cast. Duration: 1h20. No intermission.