'Six' review: Bangin' musical is savvy, sassy, and spectacular
Courtesy of Broadway in Detroit
A tightly wound musical that creatively redefines the history (or her-story) of the six wives of monarch Henry VIII, the rowdy, sassy musical “Six” doesn’t hold back and is a total blast from start to finish.
It’s hard enough to formulate a top tier band these days let alone find one who shares a common denominator: in this case, imagine if all of the singers had an abusive, traumatic, and murderous relationship with former King Henry VIII. Thankfully, it’s been a long time since the 1500s and morals have certainly changed, which allows these queens the ability to recontextualize how abnormal these encounters and courtships were. You know, like how Henry had his wife, Anne Boleyn, beheaded with no real evidence and then the very next day was engaged. As someone cheerfully says in the show: “Different times.”
Co-writers and directors Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss have created a lively, hip, and ingenious premise wherein the jaded wives, Catherine of Aragon, Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Kathrine Howard, and Catherine Parr, are a girl band modeled after the likes of Fifth Harmony, Spice Girls, with singular inspiration provided ala Beyonce, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, and Avril Lavigne, who are basically trying to find closure for their tumtulous marriages and, in some cases, unexpected deaths. Ran over the course of a brisk unabridged 80-minute presentation, each queen is given the spotlight and a kick-ass, sometimes immaculate choreographed, song to plead their case to the audience as to why their brief stay with Henry was far worse than the others. Boleyn might have the advantage considering the whole “off with your head” thing, but each of the characters certainly make a strong case.
But the musical, which won the 2022 Tony Award for original score, cheekily explores the dynamics of these wives with a slick, progressive lens. For starters, the crew share little resemblance to their portraits (the show gracefully includes a mini biography of each of them in the Playbill) and they discuss their commonalities as if they were at a sleepover, fawning over Tinder, listening to the latest hits, and binge watching Netflix. Songs like “Haus of Holbein” (which takes creative liberties with how Henry proposed to Anne based on a portrait by artist Holbein), positioned in the middle of the show as this oddball German house party rager, perfectly displays the musical’s central relationships. Oh, and it’s tons of fun.
From the performance side, Jana Larell Glover stood out the most as Catherine of Aragon who is anointed the show’s first solo with the tune “No Way,” an upbeat, rock-fueled balled that had all the energy of Beyonce’s best hits; Zan Berube makes for a good, obnoxious Boleyn even if the beheading jokes occasionally grew stale and her song “Don’t Lose Ur Head” couldn’t sustain the momentum “No Way” opened with; Amina Faye’s Jane Seymour was utterly heartbreaking and her “Heart of Stone” left the audience in emotional shambles; Terica Marie nearly shattered the roof on The Fisher Theater performing the Megan Thee Stallion-esq “Get Down;” Aline Mayagoitia certainly embedded her own diva flavor into Katherine Howard, while Sydney Parra’s Catherine Parr ends up being a comforting voice of reason.
Everything else is all aces, from the music direction by Lena Gabrielle to Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s outstanding choreography, but the show wouldn’t have any fleek if not for Gabrielle Slade’s glistening costume design, which punctuates an already boisterous production.
A revisionist pop musical about the lives of these battered women was never going to fact check or aim for a wholesome message (though the ladies, at the end, give themselves the happily ever after they never got), it’s still a can’t miss evening of live entertainment. And if it makes people walk away with a better understanding and appreciation for what these six endured, then it’s worth the price of admission. You can let historical context slide when the music, script, and performances are this sensational.
SIX the musical continues through June 11th at The Fisher Theater in Detroit. Tickets can be purchased via Ticketmaster.