Six (stylised in all caps) is a British musical comedy with music, book, and lyrics by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss.[1] It is a modern retelling of the lives of the six wives of Henry VIII, presented in the form of a singing competition. In the show, each of the wives (Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Catherine Parr)[2] take turns telling their story to determine who suffered the most from their shared husband.

SIX
MusicToby Marlow
Lucy Moss
LyricsToby Marlow
Lucy Moss
BookToby Marlow
Lucy Moss
BasisWives of Henry VIII
Premiere2017: Edinburgh Fringe
Productions2017 Edinburgh
2017 Pre-West End
2018 UK tour
2019 West End
2019 North American tour
2021 Broadway
2021 Australia and New Zealand tour
2023 Toronto
AwardsTony Award for Best Original Score

The musical premiered at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2017, where it was performed by students from Cambridge University.[3] Six premiered in the West End at the Arts Theatre in January 2019, and has since embarked on a UK tour.[4][5] It premiered in North America in May 2019 and on Broadway in February 2020. Following a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it officially opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on 3 October 2021[6] and has since launched additional touring companies.

Plot edit

The six Queens introduce themselves through biographical pop songs and explain that their band's lead singer will be whoever they determine had the worst experience at the hands of their common husband, Henry VIII ("Ex-Wives"). Catherine of Aragon recounts how Henry wished to annul their marriage and place her in a nunnery when he began pursuing Anne Boleyn despite her loyalty to him during their marriage ("No Way"). In turn, Anne boasts about how Henry wanted her instead of Catherine, then complains of the Henry's infidelity, which led to Anne's own flirtations with other men, which were the grounds for her beheading ("Don't Lose Ur Head"). Jane Seymour steps up to take her turn, but is ridiculed for having had an easy time with Henry. However, while admitting she may have been the only wife Henry truly loved, Jane claims that Henry's love was conditional, only guaranteed because she produced a male heir, and that she stood by him despite his many faults ("Heart of Stone").

Themes relating to ideas of female beauty and the sacrifices expected to are explored in Hans Holbein's portrait studio. The Queens parody a dating app by presenting a choice of potential brides ("Haus of Holbein"). Henry chooses Anna of Cleves[a] for his fourth wife, but soon rejects her and annuls the marriage, claiming she failed to resemble her “profile picture”. She makes a show of complaining about living in a palace in Richmond with an enormous fortune and no husband telling her what to do, but ends up bragging about her life instead ("Get Down"). The other Queens question this, and Anna admits her lavish lifestyle lacked actual tragedy then drops out of the competition. The Queens next mock Katherine Howard[b] claiming she's "the least relevant Catherine", but in retaliation she exposes flaws in the others' claims to winning. Katherine recounts her romantic history, having had many suitors even as a child, and at first relishes her attractiveness before later revealing the emotional trauma and sexual abuse she faced in each of these relationships ("All You Wanna Do").

As the Queens continue to fight over who the true winner is, the final wife, Catherine Parr, questions the point of the competition, which defines them by their connection to Henry rather than as individuals. The Queens nonetheless continue to argue. Frustrated, Parr details her separation from her lover, Sir Thomas Seymour, and arranged marriage to Henry; however, instead of simply complaining about her situation, she acknowledges her accomplishments independent of Henry ("I Don't Need Your Love"). The other Queens, realising they have been robbed of their individuality, abandon the contest and declare that they don't need Henry's love to feel validated as people. They use their remaining moments onstage to rewrite their stories, singing together as a group rather than as solo artists, and writing their own 'happily ever afters', imagining that Henry had never married them ("Six"). They then perform a mashup of songs that appeared earlier in the show excluding "Haus of Holbein" in which the audience have their permission to film ("Megasix").

Development edit

 
Marlow (left) and Moss (right) at the 75th Tony Awards.

In late 2016, Toby Marlow was selected by the Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society to create and write a new musical that would be presented at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2017. Marlow, who was in his final year at Cambridge University, created a concept for a musical that would involve re-telling the story of King Henry VIII's ex-wives.[7] He partnered with another student, Lucy Moss, who began working on a concept for the musical together.

As they began working on the musical, Marlow researched the ex-wives stories by reading Antonia Fraser's The Six Wives of Henry VIII, while Moss viewed a documentary series, Six Wives by Lucy Worsley. They also watched and drew inspiration from the 2011 Beyoncé concert and story-telling performance, Live at Roseland: Elements of 4.[8] The foundation for the musical was written over the course of approximately 10 nonconsecutive days.[9]

In developing the characters, Marlow and Moss were inspired by several real-life pop stars who were used as a composite and musical inspiration for the characters. The six ex-wives and their corresponding pop star inspirations are:

Production history edit

Edinburgh Fringe (2017) edit

The world premiere production of Six took place at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, as a presentation by the Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society.[3] The musical ran from 31 July 2017 until 14 October 2017. The cast consisted primarily of students from Cambridge University.[8] The production's run was sold-out, and led to the musical being invited to return to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2018.[8] Although the show did not win any major awards at the Fringe, it received positive reviews and buzz, and expressions of commercial interest.[8]

Pre-West End tour (2018) edit

 
Branding as seen on the Lyric Theatre in London in 2020.

Following the success of the Edinburgh Fringe production, Marlow and Moss brought Six back to Cambridge, where it attracted the attention of producer Kenny Wax, who went on to partner with George Stiles and Wendy and Andy Barnes, to produce the show.[8] Six had its first professional production at the Arts Theatre in London's West End, for six Monday night performances beginning on 18 December 2017.[11][12] The cast included Renée Lamb as Catherine of Aragon, Christina Modestou as Anne Boleyn, Natalie Paris as Jane Seymour, Genesis Lynea as Anna of Cleves, Aimie Atkinson as Katherine Howard, and Izuka Hoyle as Catherine Parr.[13]

Six embarked on a brief tour across the UK between 11 July 2018 and 30 December 2018.[1] Paris and Atkinson reprised their roles as Jane Seymour and Katherine Howard, respectively, with Jarnéia Richard-Noel, Millie O'Connell, Alexia McIntosh, and Maiya Quansah-Breed joining the cast. The tour included performances at the Norwich Playhouse, and return engagements at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and the Arts Theatre in London.[14]

West End (2019–present) edit

 
Six at the Vaudeville Theatre, December 2022

Six officially made its West End premiere at the Arts Theatre on 17 January 2019.[4] All of the cast members from the 2018 touring production reprised their roles in the original West End production, which was directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage.[15] Performances were suspended in March 2020, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.[16]

On 5 December 2020, Six resumed performances, this time playing at the Lyric Theatre.[17] Despite the COVID-19 preventative measures implemented in London theatres, performances were once again forced to stop on 14 December 2020.[18]

On 21 May 2021, Six reopened for a second time at the Lyric Theatre. The musical finished its residency at the Lyric Theatre on 29 August 2021. It then transferred West End theatres and reopened at the Vaudeville Theatre on 29 September 2021.[19]

UK tour (2019–present) edit

The cast for the first UK tour included Lauren Drew as Catherine of Aragon, Maddison Bulleyment as Anne Boleyn, Lauren Byrne as Jane Seymour, Shekinah McFarlane as Anna of Cleves, Jodie Steele as Katherine Howard, and Athena Collins as Catherine Parr.[20] The tour opened on 24 October 2019 at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford.[20] It was suspended in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[21] Amidst the pandemic, plans emerged for a drive-in style tour across the UK beginning in June 2020.[22] However, those plans were cancelled due to further COVID-19 shutdown restrictions.[23] On 8 June 2021, the UK tour resumed, with performances beginning in Canterbury.[24]

Pre-Broadway tour (2019) edit

Six made its North American premiere at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater in May 2019, as a "likely Broadway tryout".[25][26] The cast included Adrianna Hicks as Catherine of Aragon, Andrea Macasaet as Anne Boleyn, Abby Mueller as Jane Seymour, Brittney Mack as Anna of Cleves, Samantha Pauly as Katherine Howard, and Anna Uzele as Catherine Parr.[27] The production opened on 14 May 2019, played for an extended run and broke box office records. It was announced in August 2019 that the production would tour and transfer to Broadway.[27][28][29] In late August 2019, the tour moved to the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts.[30] It made its Canadian premiere at Edmonton's Citadel Theatre in November 2019.[31] A final performance series was given at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota.[32]

Norwegian Cruise Line productions (2019–present) edit

Six was performed on Norwegian Cruise Line ships beginning in September 2019 on the Norwegian Bliss, with a second production beginning in November 2019 on the Norwegian Breakaway. The Productions were paused in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[33] Performances resumed in September 2021 on the Norwegian Breakaway and in October 2021 on the Norwegian Bliss.[34][35]

Australia (2020/2021–2023; 2024–present) edit

Six had its Australian premiere at the Sydney Opera House in January 2020 starring Chloé Zuel (Aragon), Kala Gare (Boleyn), Loren Hunter (Seymour), Kiana Daniele (Cleves), Courtney Monsma (Howard), and Vidya Makan (Parr).[36][37] The production was originally planned to tour to Melbourne's Comedy Theatre in mid 2020 and Adelaide's Her Majesty's Theatre in late 2020 as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival but the performances were postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[38] The Australian production is produced by Louise Withers, Michael Coppel and Linda Bewick.[39] The production reopened on December 19, 2021, at the Sydney Opera House and ran through to April 2, 2022. Gare, Hunter, Daniele, Makan, Oka and Quan returned to the show, and joined by Phoenix Jackson Mendoza and Chelsea Dawson, replacing Zuel and Monsma as Aragon and Howard respectively. It then continued its Australian tour in Canberra, with stops in Adelaide and Melbourne, before returning to Sydney again, with Perth and Brisbane to follow.[40] The show closed in February 2023 after its last run in Brisbane, with all the cast members departing.[41] On the 28th November 2023, it was announced that SIX would be returning to Australia for another Australian tour starting from August 2024 in Melbourne and then going to Sydney from October 2024 and then Brisbane from January 2025.[42]

Broadway (2020/2021–present) edit

 
Six at the Lena Horne Theatre (formerly Brooks Atkinson Theatre), May 2022

Six began Broadway previews on 13 February 2020 at the Lena Horne Theatre (then known as the Brooks Atkinson Theatre).[43][6] On the day of its scheduled Broadway opening, 12 March 2020, all Broadway theatres were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[44][45] Six resumed Broadway previews on 17 September 2021, and it opened officially on 3 October.[46] The first new musical to open on Broadway since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Variety, its opening night was a celebration for Broadway theatre.[47] Moss and Armitage directed the production, with choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, set design by Emma Bailey, costumes by Gabriella Slade and lighting by Tim Deiling. The original Broadway cast was the same as the 2019 North American tour cast.[48][49] To promote the show, the cast performed at the 2021 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.[50]

A cast album of the Broadway production was released in 2022.[51] The live recording from the opening night was released May 6, 2022.[52]

North American touring productions (2022–present) edit

A US national tour of Six was planned to begin at Chicago's Broadway Playhouse, but was delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.[53] The tour, later dubbed the "Aragon" tour, began performances at the CIBC Theatre in Chicago on 29 March 2022.[54] The cast was Khaila Wilcoxon as Aragon, Storm Lever as Boleyn, Jasmine Forsberg as Seymour, Olivia Donalson as Cleves, Didi Romero as Howard and Gabriela Carrillo as Parr. The West End Seymour, Natalie Paris, joined the tour, reprising her role, in 2023. The tour ended in July 2023, and the original tour cast moved to the ongoing Broadway production in December 2023.[55]

A second overlapping US national tour, dubbed the "Boleyn" tour began performances at The Smith Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, on 20 September 2022.[56] The cast was Gerianne Pérez as Aragon, Alexandra "Zan" Berube as Boleyn, Amina Faye as Seymour, Terica Marie as Cleves, Aline Mayagoitia as Howard and Sydney Parra as Parr.[57]

Canadian productions (2023–present) edit

A Canadian production of Six played first at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton between 12 August 2023 and 10 September 2023.[58] and then transferred to the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto where it began on 23 September 2023 and is set to close on 26 May 2024.[59][60]

International productions edit

Six had its Asian premiere at the Shinhan Card Artium in South Korea, the musical's first non-English production,[61] opening on 10 March 2023, with the cast of the UK tour performing the roles for three weeks.[62] Beginning 31 March 2023, a Korean cast began performances.[62] Multiple actors split the roles, including Lee Arumsoul and Son Seung-yeon as Catherine of Aragon, Kim Ji-woo and Bae Soo-jung as Anne Boleyn, Park Hye-na and Park Ga-ram as Jane Seymour, Kim Ji-sun and Choi Hyun-sun as Anna of Cleves, Kim Ryeo-won and Heo Sol-ji as Katherine Howard, and Yoo Joo-hye and Hong Ji-hee as Catherine Parr.[63]

The Madách Theatre in Budapest, Hungary, is presenting a non-replica staging that opened on 14 October 2023.[64]

A Polish non-replica production opened at Teatr Syrena in Warsaw on 9 September 2023. It is directed and choreographed by Ewelina Adamska-Porczyk.[65]

Original principal casts edit

Original casts edit

Role West End Broadway
2018 2020/2021
Catherine of Aragon Jarnéia Richard-Noel Adrianna Hicks
Anne Boleyn Millie O'Connell Andrea Macasaet
Jane Seymour Natalie Paris Abby Mueller
Anna of Cleves Alexia McIntosh Brittney Mack
Katherine Howard Aimie Atkinson Samantha Pauly
Catherine Parr Maiya Quansah-Breed Anna Uzele

Notable replacements edit

West End edit

Show co-creator Toby Marlow filled in as Catherine Parr for two West End performances on 28 July 2019 due to a cast-wide illness.[68]

Broadway edit

Supporting players edit

Included on-stage is the back-up band, known as "The Ladies in Waiting". The band provides part the accompaniment and are costumed and assume the persona of a "historical" lady-in-waiting. According to Playbill, the on-stage band members, "execute a myriad of musical cues, acting choices, and subtle choreography that further immerse the audience into the concert experience and underscore the razor-sharp wit of the show’s libretto."[70]

Musical numbers edit

  • "Ex-Wives" – Company
  • "Ex-Wives (Reprise)" – Company †
  • "No Way" – Catherine of Aragon and Company
  • "Don't Lose Ur Head" – Anne Boleyn and Company
  • "Heart of Stone" – Jane Seymour and Company
  • "Haus of Holbein" – Company
  • "Get Down" – Anna of Cleves and Company
  • "All You Wanna Do" – Katherine Howard and Company
  • "I Don't Need Your Love" – Catherine Parr
  • "I Don't Need Your Love (Remix)" – Catherine Parr and Company ††
  • "Six" – Company
  • "The Megasix (Encore)" – Company †

† Not included on the studio cast recording.
†† Included as part of "I Don't Need Your Love" on the studio cast recording.

Cast recordings edit

Studio cast recording edit

Six (Studio Cast Recording) is a studio album that was released digitally and on CD on August 31, 2018 through 6 Music, Loudmouth Music, and Ex-Wives Ltd.[71] The recording was released on vinyl for the first time on March 11, 2022.[72] The studio cast included, Renée Lamb (Catherine of Aragon), Christina Modestou (Anne Boleyn), Natalie Paris (Jane Seymour), Genesis Lynea (Anna of Cleves), Aimie Atkinson (Katherine Howard), Izuka Hoyle (Catherine Parr).[73] The recording peaked at number four on the UK Soundtracks chart,[74] ten on the UK Compilation Chart,[75] 65 on the UK Album Downloads Chart,[76] and number two on the US Cast Albums chart.[77] It was certified Gold in the UK in November 2021,[78] "Don't Lose Ur Head" was certified Silver in 2022[78] and "Ex-Wives" was certified Silver in 2023.[79] An instrumental "sing-along" version was released on July 30, 2019.[80]

Live original Broadway cast recording edit

Six: Live on Opening Night (Original Broadway Cast Recording) is a live album recorded by the original Broadway cast on their official opening night at the then Brooks Atkinson Theatre on 3 October 2021. This was the first time in Broadway history that an original cast recorded their musical's production album live.[81] The cast recording was released digitally on 6 May 2022.[82] It includes all of the musical numbers in the show, as well as a bonus song by the Broadway alternates.[82] It debuted at #1 on the Billboard's Cast Album charts, and was streamed over 3.5 million times within two weeks of its release.[83] The recording will be released on CD and vinyl.[83]

Concept edit

Casting edit

Marlow and Moss lamented the lack of gender diversity within the theatre industry, which caused them to focus on themes of queerness while developing the show.[84] They wanted a cast that was predominantly female or non-binary and the story itself to feature queer narratives in a space which normally didn't.[84]

Historical accuracy edit

Six is based on real historical events and figures, but it does take artistic liberties in its portrayal of these characters. The musical incorporates some elements of historical fact, such as the marriages, divorces, and executions of the six queens.

The show is based on historical figures with varying degrees of accuracy. Generally, the show is quite sympathetic towards its characters: for instance, it portrays Katherine Howard as a survivor of rape, which is debated amongst historians.[85] Researchers and writers such as Suzannah Lipscomb and Gareth Russell have identified themselves as fans of the show.[86]

Audio production edit

Rather than the more typical head-worn microphones used in most musicals, the Queens use hand-held radio microphones. Their costumes have a loop to hold these when not in use. Marlow and Moss said that they chose to use handheld microphones "to present a unique experience, something that referenced Beyoncé at Roseland". The Queens also wear in-ear monitors.[87]

Reception edit

In a review of the Arts Theatre production, Dominic Cavendish of The Telegraph called the show "gloriously – persuasively – coherent, confident and inventive".[88] Lyn Gardner of The Guardian wrote, "It may be cloaked in silliness, but Six makes some serious points about female victimhood and survival."[89]

In a review of the Chicago production, Chris Jones of The Chicago Tribune praised the show as "dynamic" and a "blast", with a "sense of humor and spirited radicalism." Marlow and Moss are "gifted comic writers", he said, and he praised the "musical force of the intensely committed and talented actresses" in the Chicago cast. Jones suggested the show could use 10 more minutes of material that gets away from the plot's singing contest conceit, and toward the emotional center of the characters. He also thought the orchestration of the songs could be more substantial. Jones said Six has an audience that is ready for it, in part because it gets to a complex historical paradox and treats it with verve, the memories of women in history being tied to the life of a man.[90]

Hedy Weiss of WTTW praised the musical as "sensational", singling out each performer in the Chicago cast. Weiss also thought the show makes a convincing case for each character, and in addition to praising the writers, noted the "dynamite direction by Moss and Jamie Armitage, and powerhouse music direction by Roberta Duchak" as well as, "Gabriella Slade’s glittering costumes ... and Tim Deiling’s arena-style lighting".[91] According to Rachel Weinberg of BroadwayWorld, "Six carries out [a] joyful and anachronistic takedown of the patriarchy" through the performances of a "brilliant" cast and a book and score with an inventive and sensational compositional method.[92] Jesse Green of The New York Times wrote that the musical is "pure entertainment", the writing is "wickedly smart", the "terrific singers" of the Chicago cast sell the show "unstintingly", and the production values "befit a splashy North American premiere with Broadway backing."[93]

The reviews for the 2021 Broadway production were positive. Green's New York Times review of the Broadway production labeled it a "Critic's Pick", calling it a "rollicking, reverberant blast from the past".[94] Frank Rizzo of Variety said, "It may not be Masterpiece Theatre, but this 'Six' is a solid '10' for joy."[95] Johnny Oleksinski of New York Post gave the show three stars out of a possible four calling the songs "whip-smart and catchy".[96]

Honors and awards edit

Original West End production edit

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2019 Laurence Olivier Award[97] Best New Musical Nominated
Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical Aimie Atkinson, Alexia McIntosh, Millie O'Connell, Natalie Paris, Maiya Quansah-Breed and Jarnéia Richard-Noel Nominated
Outstanding Achievement in Music Joe Beighton, Tom Curran, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss Nominated
Best Theatre Choreographer Carrie-Anne Ingrouille Nominated
Best Costume Design Gabriella Slade Nominated
2020 Black British Theatre Awards Best Female Actor in a Musical Maiya Quansah-Breed Nominated

Original Broadway production edit

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2020 Drama League Awards[98] Outstanding Production of a Musical Nominated
Distinguished Performance Award Brittney Mack Nominated
2022 Tony Awards[99]
Best Musical Nominated
Best Original Score Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss Won
Best Direction of a Musical Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage Nominated
Best Costume Design in a Musical Gabriella Slade Won
Best Lighting Design in a Musical Tim Deiling Nominated
Best Sound Design of a Musical Paul Gatehouse Nominated
Best Choreography Carrie-Anne Ingrouille Nominated
Best Orchestrations Tom Curran Nominated
Drama Desk Awards[100] Outstanding Musical Nominated
Ensemble Award Adrianna Hicks, Andrea Macasaet, Brittney Mack, Abby Mueller, Samantha Pauly, and Anna Uzele Won
Outstanding Costume Design of a Musical Gabriella Slade Won
Outstanding Scenic Design of a Musical Emma Bailey Nominated
Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical Paul Gatehouse Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage Nominated
Outstanding Choreography Carrie-Anne Ingrouille Nominated
Outstanding Orchestrations Tom Curran Nominated
Outstanding Music Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss Won
Outstanding Lyrics Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss Won
Outstanding Book of a Musical Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award[101] Outstanding New Broadway Musical Won
Outstanding Score Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow Won
Outstanding Costume Design Gabriella Slade Won
2023 Grammy Awards[102] Best Musical Theater Album Six: Live on Opening Night Nominated

Adaptations edit

Filmed stage production edit

In June 2022, it was announced that there would be a live recording of the stage production.[103] All of the original West End cast members returned to reprise their roles.[103] Tapings were held on 29 and 30 June 2022 at the Vaudeville Theatre, with audience tickets sold via a virtual lottery.[104][105] The professionally filmed live recording will be released in the future.[106]

Potential film adaptation edit

In October 2020, co-creators Moss and Marlow confirmed that they were "in talks" about a potential film adaptation of the musical.[107]

SVN edit

After being in the Original West End cast for Six, Aimie Atkinson, Alexia McIntosh, Jarnéia Richard-Noel, Millie O'Connell, Maiya Quansah-Breed and Natalie May Paris teamed up with cast understudy Grace Mouat to launch a girl group called SVN (pronounced seven), with the band releasing singles such as "Woman"[108] and "Free"[109] in 2022.

Notes edit

  1. ^ In the musical, the character Anna of Cleves goes by the German spelling "Anna" instead of the traditionally anglicised "Anne". This distinguishing spelling leaves "Anne" for Anne Boleyn.
  2. ^ The character Katherine Howard is spelled with a 'K', though the historical figure is usually spelled Catherine. This distinguishing spelling leaves "Catherine" maintained for the two other wives with that name.

References edit

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External links edit