Six (musical)

Six (stylised in all uppercase) is a British musical comedy with book, music, and lyrics by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss.[1] The musical is a modern retelling of the lives of the six wives of Henry VIII presented as a pop concert, as the Queens take turns singing and telling their story to see who suffered the most due to Henry and should, therefore, become the group's lead singer.

Six
Six Musical.jpg
MusicToby Marlow
Lucy Moss
LyricsToby Marlow
Lucy Moss
BookToby Marlow
Lucy Moss
BasisWives of Henry VIII
Premiere2017: Edinburgh Fringe
Productions2017 Edinburgh
2017 Off-West End
2018 UK tour
2019 West End
2019 North American tour
2021 Broadway
AwardsTony Award for Best Original Score

The musical was first presented by Cambridge University students at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2017. It has since gone on to professional productions in the West End, on Broadway and internationally.

PlotEdit

The six Queens introduce themselves performing at a pop concert, telling the audience that the position of the band's lead singer will be the prize for 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 lusting after Anne Boleyn despite being loyal to him during their marriage, much to her anger ("No Way"). In turn, Anne mocks Catherine about how Henry wanted her instead but then complains of the infidelity Henry partook in, which led to Anne flirting with other men to make him jealous and ending up beheaded ("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 his love was conditional on her having produced a male heir, and that she stood by him despite his many faults ("Heart of Stone").

Themes relating to ideas of female beauty are explored in Hans Holbein's portrait studio, where the Queens parody a dating app by presenting a choice of three potential brides for Henry ("Haus of Holbein"). He chooses Anna of Cleves,[a] but soon rejects her and annuls the marriage, suggesting she failed to resemble her portrait. She makes a show of complaining about living in a beautiful palace in Richmond with an enormous fortune and no man to tell her what to do, but in reality, ends up bragging about it ("Get Down"). The Queens question this, and Anna admits her lavish lifestyle lacked actual tragedy. The Queens then belittle Katherine Howard[b] for being "the least relevant Catherine", but in retaliation she enumerates flaws in the others' claims to winning. She then recounts her romantic history, having had many suitors even as a child, and at first relishes her attractiveness; however, she soon reveals the emotional trauma and abuse she faced in each of these relationships ("All You Wanna Do").

As the Queens continue to fight over who is the true winner, 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 recalls her separation from her lover, Sir Thomas Seymour, and arranged marriage with Henry, but instead of lamenting, 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', had Henry never been involved ("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 record ("Megasix").

Musical numbersEdit

  • "Ex-Wives" – Company
  • "Ex-Wives (Reprise)" – Company †
  • "No Way" – Catherine of Aragon and Company
  • "The One You've Been Waiting For" – Company minus Anne Boleyn †
  • "Don't Lose Ur Head" – Anne Boleyn and Company
  • "Heart of Stone" – Jane Seymour and Company
  • "Haus of Holbein" – Company
  • "Haus of Holbein (Playoff)" – Company †
  • "Get Down" – Anna of Cleves and Company
  • "All You Wanna Do" – Katherine Howard and Company
  • "I Don't Need Your Love" – Catherine Parr and Company
  • "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 recordingsEdit

A studio album featuring the original Off-West End cast was released digitally and on CD on August 31, 2018 through 6 Music, Loudmouth Music, and Ex-Wives Ltd.[2] The recording peaked at number four on the UK Soundtracks chart,[3] ten on the UK Compilation Chart,[4] 65 on the UK Album Downloads Chart,[5] and number two on the US Cast Albums chart.[6] It was certified Gold in the UK in November 2021[7] and "Don't Lose Ur Head" was certified Silver in 2022.[7] An instrumental "sing-along" version was released on July 30, 2019.[8] The studio cast recording was released on vinyl for the first time on March 11, 2022.[9]

A live album recorded on the original Broadway production's opening night was released on May 6, 2022.[10] It debuted at number six on the UK Soundtracks chart,[3] 23 on the UK Album Downloads Chart,[5] 72 on the UK Album Sales Chart,[11] and number one the US Cast Albums chart.[6]

DevelopmentEdit

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

Toby Marlow was selected in late 2016 by Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society to write a new musical to be performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe the next summer. The idea for what became Six came to Marlow while studying in his final year at Cambridge University.[12] The initial six wives' concert concept occurred to him in a poetry class, and Marlow decided to get his friend Lucy Moss involved. Despite uncertainties, the pair wrote part of the show while studying for their final exams. Marlow researched by reading Antonia Fraser's The Six Wives of Henry VIII, while Moss viewed a documentary series, Six Wives by Lucy Worsley. At their first writing session together, they watched a 2011 Beyoncé concert and story-telling performance, Live at Roseland: Elements of 4.[13] Over the course of approximately 10 nonconsecutive days, Marlow and Moss established the foundation for the show.[14]

The writers fashioned the characters after a variety of real-life pop stars:

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.[18] 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.[18]

ProductionsEdit

Edinburgh FringeEdit

The world premiere production of Six took place at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2017, presented by Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society.[19] Although the production did not win any major awards, it was well-received and sold out of tickets at the festival.[16] Its popularity led to Six being invited back to Edinburgh Fringe the next summer, this time in one of the festival's larger venues.[16]

Professional debut and UK tour (2018)Edit

The Edinburgh production and a subsequent showing back in Cambridge attracted the attention of producers Kenny Wax and Global Musicals . The show was initially booked for four performances at the Arts Theatre in the West End of London,[20][13] making its professional debut on 18 December 2017, and appeared in Monday-night only weekly slots. The production was eventually increased to six performances.[20][13] A studio recording was released on 13 September 2018 featuring the original Arts Theatre cast.[21]

Six began its first UK tour on 11 July at the Norwich Playhouse with a mix of new and returning cast members from the original Arts Theatre production. It returned to the Edinburgh Fringe on 1 August 2018. The production briefly transferred back to London to the Arts Theatre, opening on 30 August 2018 before closing on 14 October and continuing its UK tour. The UK tour ended on 30 December 2018 in Glasgow.[22]

West End (2019–present)Edit

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

The musical re-opened for an initial 16-week run at the Arts Theatre on 17 January 2019. Directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage with choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, set design by Emma Bailey, and musical supervision by Joe Beighton,[23] the initial run was planned to be extended until January 2021.[24] However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the production was paused starting in March 2020.

The show became one of the first to reopen on the West End. It reopened briefly at the Lyric Theatre on 5 December 2020, with plans to return to the Arts Theatre the following year. Due to the ongoing pandemic, audiences were socially distanced, with capacity limited to 50%, face coverings and temperature checks required, and contact tracing rules in place.[25][26] In mid-December, all London theatres were again required to close.[27] The show reopened for the second time since its initial closure at the Lyric on 21 May 2021 with the above measures still in place.[28] The production finished its residency at the Lyric Theatre on 29 August 2021, and reopened at the nearby Vaudeville Theatre on 29 September.[29]

On 14 November 2021, the full West End cast, including all principal actresses, alternates, and swings, departed. They were replaced by Amy Di Bartolomeo (Aragon), Amanda Lindgren (Boleyn), Claudia Kariuki (Seymour), Dionne Ward-Anderson (Cleves), Tsemaye Bob-Egbe (Howard), Meesha Turner (Parr), as well as Paisley Billings, Roxanne Couch, and Danielle Rose as alternates, plus Esme Rothero and Rachel Rawlinson as "super swings."

After three performances at Hampton Court Palace on 19 and 20 June 2022, the full original cast returned to the West End to record a professionally filmed version of the show. Tapings took place on 29 and 30 June 2022 and were followed by a public performance on 01 July 2022. Tickets were sold via a virtual lottery, and the recording will be released in the near future.[30]

North American tour (2019)Edit

Six had its North American premiere at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) in May 2019.[31] Directed by Jamie Armitage and Lucy Moss,[32] the Chicago premiere was produced by Six's London producers with the addition of Broadway producer Kevin McCollum. According to Chris Jones, the Chicago production was a likely Broadway tryout.[33] The production broke box office records for CST and its run at the theatre was eventually extended and a Broadway booking set for 2020.[34][35] The musical moved to the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts in late August[36] and made its Canadian premiere at Edmonton's Citadel Theatre in November[37][38] before finishing its tour at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota on 22 December 2019, prior to its Broadway debut.[39]

Norwegian Cruise Line (2019–present)Edit

On 6 August 2019, Norwegian Cruise Line announced that they would be showing performances of Six on three of their ships.[40] The first production began in September 2019 on the Norwegian Bliss, with a second production on the Norwegian Breakaway beginning in November 2019. A third production was scheduled to begin on the Norwegian Breakaway in April 2020.[41] The productions were put on pause in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Norwegian Breakaway and Norwegian Bliss productions restarted in September 2021 and October 2021, respectively.[42][43]

UK tour (2019–present)Edit

A second UK tour was officially announced on 5 September 2019. The production opened on 24 October 2019 at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford, starring Lauren Drew, Maddison Bulleyment, Lauren Byrne, Shekinah McFarlane, Jodie Steele, and Athena Collins. The tour was scheduled to run until 25 July 2020, concluding its run at the Birmingham Hippodrome.[44] Due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down theaters however, a deal was struck between the Society of London Theatre and U.K. actors union Equity; ensuring that West End and touring performers who are currently under contract will be able to continue on those preexisting terms and restart rehearsals or performances with revised dates once the shutdown ends.[45]

In June 2020, a drive-in-style tour production was planned.[46] It was later cancelled before opening due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.[47]

In April 2021, it was announced that the tour would resume starting on 8 June in Canterbury. Drew, Bulleyment, McFarlane, and the alternates returned for the production. They were joined by Caitlin Tipping (Bliss 1.0), Vicki Manser, Elèna Gyasi, and Natalie Pilkington as Jane Seymour, Katherine Howard, Catherine Parr, and as swing, respectively. The cast change date for UK tour had been set as 6 March 2022, and would take place in Guildford, with the new cast announced on 1 February 2022. The cast will star Chloe Hart (Aragon), Jennifer Caldwell (previous Tour alt.) (Boleyn), Casey Al-Shaqsy (Seymour), Aiesha Pease (Cleves), Jaina Brock-Patel (Howard), and Alana M Robinson (Parr). Caldwell previously understudied the role of Anne Boleyn as well as Katherine Howard in the previous cast of the UK tour. The cast change was delayed until the tenth March due to outbreaks of COVID-19 in the replacement cast.[48] Pease stepped down from the role of Cleves after the tour concluded its time in Guildford. She was replaced by Jessica Niles (NCL Breakaway 1/2.0 Cleves) respectively. More recently, it was announced that the show will take a two week stop in Amsterdam in September 2023. Patel stepped down from the role of Howard towards the tour concluding its time in Blackpool. She was replaced by Rebecca Wickes (Bliss 2.0 Howard) respectively.

Australia and New Zealand (2020/2021–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) with Ella Burns, Karis Oka and Shannen Alyce Quan as swings. [49][50] 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.[51] The Australian production is produced by Louise Withers, Michael Coppel and Linda Bewick.[52] 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 Monsoma as Aragon and Howard respectively, as well as swing Chiara Assetta. It then continued its Australian tour in Canberra, with stops in Adelaide and Melbourne, before returning to Sydney again, with Perth, Brisbane and New Zealand to follow.[53]

Broadway (2020/2021–present)Edit

Six began Broadway previews on 13 February 2020 at the Lena Horne Theatre (then known as the Brooks Atkinson Theatre).[54][55] On the day of its scheduled Broadway opening, 12 March 2020, all Broadway theatres were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[56][57] In May 2021, it was announced that Six would resume Broadway preview performances starting on 17 September 2021, and it officially opened on 3 October.[58] The first new musical to open on Broadway since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Variety its opening night was both a celebration for Broadway theatre and a testament to the show's novel use of social media to propel it to international sensation pre-Broadway, especially among young people.[59] Moss and Armitage directed the production, with choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, set design by Emma Bailey, costumes by Gabriella Slade, sound by Paul Gatehouse, lighting by Tim Deiling, and orchestrations by Tom Curran. The original Broadway cast was the same as the 2019 North American tour cast with the addition of two swings.[60][61] In promotion of the show, the cast performed at the 2021 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.[62]

A cast album of the original Broadway production was announced for 2022.[63] The live recording from the opening night was released May 6, 2022.[64]

US Tours (2022–present)Edit

At the original Chicago production's final show on 4 August 2019, it was announced that Six would return to the city at the Broadway Playhouse.[65] It was scheduled to begin 5 October 2021, after two postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[66] The production was then rescheduled for the larger CIBC Theatre and ran from 29 March to 3 July 2022, the start of a new US Tour - referred to as the "Aragon" tour.[67] The cast consisted of Khaila Wilcoxon (Aragon), Storm Lever (Boleyn), Jasmine Forsberg (Seymour), Olivia Donaldson (Cleves), Didi Romero (Howard), and Gabriela Carrillo (Parr).

A second US tour – called the "Boleyn" tour – was announced on 28 February 2022, and launched at The Smith Center in Las Vegas, Nevada on 20 September 2022.[68]

South Korea (2023)Edit

A South Korean production will play the COEX Artium in Seoul from March to June 2023. Casting is yet to be announced. [69]

Poland (2023)Edit

Polish production will be play at Teatr Syrena in Warsaw from September 2023 directed by Ewelina Adamska-Porczyk. [70]Casting was announced in October: Olga Szomańska (Aragon), Izabela Pawletko (Boleyn), Marta Burdynowicz (Seymour), Małgorzata Chruściel (Cleves), Anna Terpiłowska (Howard), Natalia Kujawa (Parr) with three understudies: Agnieszka Rose (Aragon/Seymour), Marta Skrzypczyńska (Cleves/Parr) and Aleksandra Gotowicka (Boleyn/Howard).

Principal original castsEdit

Role Edinburgh premiere
(2017)
Off-West End
(2017)
Original UK tour
(2018)
Original West End cast
(2019)
Original North American tour
(2019)
Original Broadway cast
(2020/2021)
Original Australia/New Zealand tour
(2020)
Catherine of Aragon Megan Gilbert Renée Lamb Jarnéia Richard-Noel Adrianna Hicks Chloe Zuel
Anne Boleyn Ashleigh Weir Christina Modestou Millie O'Connell Andrea Macasaet Kala Gare
Jane Seymour Holly Musgrave Natalie Paris Abby Mueller Loren Hunter
Anna of Cleves Oliver Wickham Genesis Lynea Alexia McIntosh Brittney Mack Kiana Daniele
Katherine Howard Annabel Marlow Aimie Atkinson Samantha Pauly Courtney Monsma
Catherine Parr Shimali de Silva Izuka Hoyle Maiya Quansah-Breed Anna Uzele Vidya Makan

Notable West End replacementsEdit

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.[73]

Notable Broadway replacementsEdit

Supporting playersEdit

Included on-stage are 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."[75]

ReceptionEdit

In a review of the Arts Theatre production, Dominic Cavendish of The Telegraph called the show "gloriously – persuasively – coherent, confident and inventive".[76] Lyn Gardner of The Guardian wrote, "It may be cloaked in silliness, but Six makes some serious points about female victimhood and survival."[77]

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.[78]

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".[79] According to Rachel Weinberg of Broadway World, "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.[80] 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."[81]

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".[82] Frank Rizzo of Variety said, "It may not be Masterpiece Theatre, but this 'Six' is a solid '10' for joy."[83] Johnny Oleksinski of New York Post gave the show three stars out of a possible four calling the songs "whip-smart and catchy".[84]

AwardsEdit

Original West End productionEdit

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2019 Laurence Olivier Award[85] 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

Chicago theatreEdit

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2019 Joseph Jefferson Equity Awards[86] Outstanding Production–Musical (Large) Won
Outstanding Ensemble Performance in a Musical or Revue Won
Outstanding Director–Musical (Large) Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage Nominated
Outstanding Lighting Design (Large) Tim Deiling Nominated
Outstanding Music Direction Roberta Duchak and Joe Beighton Won

Original Broadway productionEdit

The original Broadway production was in preview shows starting 13 February 2020, which made it eligible for the 2020 Drama League Awards, but its scheduled March 2020 opening night was cancelled due to the stay-at-home order announced in regard to the COVID-19 pandemic. Its official 2021 opening made it eligible for the 2022 Tony Awards.

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2020 Drama League Awards[87] Outstanding Production of a Musical Nominated
Distinguished Performance Award Brittney Mack Nominated
2022 Tony Awards[88]
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[89] 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[90] Outstanding New Broadway Musical Won
Outstanding Score Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow Won
Outstanding Costume Design Gabriella Slade Won
2022 Grammy Awards[91] Best Musical Theater Album Six: Live on Opening Night Pending

Historical accuracyEdit

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.[92] Researchers and writers such as Suzannah Lipscomb and Gareth Russell have identified themselves as fans of the show.[93]

SVNEdit

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"[94] and "Free"[95] in 2022.

NotesEdit

  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.

ReferencesEdit

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  4. ^ "Official Compilations Chart Top 100 – 19 May 2022". Official Charts Company. Retrieved 19 May 2022.
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