The six not-so-merry, but incredibly fierce, wives of Henry the Eighth
By Narelle Wood
Six the Musical is a modern, girl-power infused, diva-driven, retelling of the stories of Henry the Eighth’s wives or, more accurately, ex-wives.
Catherine of Aragon (Phoenix Jackson Mendoza), Anne Boleyn (Kala Gare), Jane Seymour (Loren Hunter), Anna of Cleves (Kiana Daniele), Katherine Howard (Chelsea Dawson), and Catherine Parr (Shannen Alyce Quan filling in for Vidya Makan on opening night) are each given their moment to tell their story, win the audience’s sympathies and, in the process, reveal a little bit of untold history.
Each queen is inspired by different queens of pop, such as Adele, Beyonce, Britney, Rihanna, Alicia Keyes and Avril Lavigne. The songstresses’ styles permeate each performance from attitude, musical genre, to dance moves, as well as the costumes and styling. Costume designer, Gabriella Slade, has created masterful pieces befitting all the dancing queens. In any other musical, the amount of detail and number of diamantés could be too much, but every part of these bedazzled outfits, including the shoes (I would like pair), are in and of themselves a piece of art.
I must admit, in terms of performances, I found myself gravitating towards the musical genres and artists that would normally fit within my musical tastes. So, the standouts for me were Gare’s Boleyn and Daniele’s Anna of Cleves. Both Gare and Daniele capture the playful edginess of Avril Lavigne and Lilly Allen, and Nicki Minaj and Rihanna respectively; they also had the added bonus of being the more up-beat solo numbers of the show.
The book by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, capitalises on the rock-musical genre with a little bit of a Cell Block Tango feel and not too much dialogue. The staging is minimal yet effective, and the all-female back-up band, the Ladies in Waiting (Claire Healy, Heidi Maguire, Kathryn Stammers, Debbie Yap and Jessica Dunn), were phenomenally tight. I couldn’t help but wonder though what directors Moss and Jamie Armitage would do with a much bigger stage, or if Six might benefit from a theatre more suited to a rock concert; it felt at times very small for a cast of six women with such big voices and a band with such big sound.
I did worry at times about how the stories were held together and what commentary the retelling might be making on the worthiness of female historical figures. But Six is a very self-aware show and doesn’t shy away from highlighting potential problems with either the show or how these women have historically been portrayed.
If you are a history buff, a fan of pop-princesses and diva-queens, and don’t flinch at the thought of watching Eurovision, then Six should definitely be on your list of musical theatre to see this year. And even if you’re not any or all of those things, Six the Musical will definitely educate and entertain.
Tickets from $89 available at https://premier.ticketek.com.au/. Six the Musical is on at the Comedy Theatre until 7 August 2022.
Photography by James D Morgan-Getty