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Six the Musical

  • Theatre, Musicals
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. Kala Gare, Chelsea Dawson, Kiana Daniele, Loren Hunter, Vidya Makan, Phoenix Jackson Mendoza in Six the Musical
    Photograph: James D Morgan/Getty Images
  2. Chelsea Dawson in Six the Musical
    Photograph: James D Morgan/Getty Images
  3. Kala Gare in Six the Musical
    Photograph: James D Morgan/Getty Images
  4. Kala Gare, Chelsea Dawson, Kiana Daniele, Loren Hunter, Vidya Makan, Phoenix Jackson Mendoza in Six the Musical
    Photograph: James D Morgan/Getty Images
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Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Tudor history gets a pop rock makeover in this rollicking international West End smash hit

What if the Spice Girls did a concept album about King Henry VIII’s wives and Baz Luhrmann directed the concert video? That, in a nutshell, is Six’s vibe: an up-tempo, empowering, all-singing, all-dancing account of the lives of the six key ladies in the Tudor monarch’s orbit. Much like Hamilton before it, the pop musical is making history buffs out of legions of musical theatre tragics, and making musical theatre tragics out of pop and hip hop lovers. 

The conceptual space is a rock concert with the wives reimagined as a girl group bickering over who will get to be lead singer. It’s decided that whoever suffered enough at the hands of their mutual ex should take the crown, as it were, and so the six compete with their tales of woe, told as irresistibly catchy dance floor bangers.

Conceived by Brits Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss in 2017, the pair having penned the show while they were studying at Cambridge, and here directed by Moss and Jamie Armitage, Six is almost the platonic ideal of a modern high end musical: a clever concept packed to the brim with instantly familiar tunes, wrapped in colourful but clean production design and costuming, and clocking in at an audience-friendly 75 minutes. 

It’s not a jukebox musical, but it kind of feels like one – songs such as ‘Ex Wives’ and the triumphant, show-topping ‘Megasix’ are finely calibrated earworms designed to hook into your brainstem and get your hands clapping and feet tapping as quickly as possible, and it’s impossible not to get caught up in the stadium show atmosphere. It’s easy to see why the original soundtrack has become a hit, having garnered more than 200 million streams worldwide since its release.

There’s darkness at the core, though. As the lyrics remind us, the fates of these women are “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived” and the show makes no bones about the abuse and misogyny they suffered. It even puts a bow on its own complicity, ultimately pointing out that we the audience and the show itself are guilty of viewing the wives only through their connection to the oafish, murderous Henry. The rousing climax is meant to absolve us of that sin, of course, but we’re still left with food for thought. 

The cast are excellent, and post-show conversation will inevitably get around to who your favourite queen is: Catherine of Aragorn (Phoenix Jackson Mendoza), a political tool packed off to a nunnery, or Anne “mother of Elizabeth” Boleyn (Kala Gare), the woman Henry left her for and later had executed? Jane Seymour (Loren Hunter), purportedly the love of Henry’s life, or Anna of Cleves (Kiana Daniele), his rebound girl who he divorced after deciding she didn’t match her portrait? Catherine Howard (Chelsea Dawson), the middle-aged Henry’s teen bride who was beheaded for adultery, or Catherine Parr (Vidya Makan), who actually managed to survive him?

A decent knowledge of Tudor history might help in getting some of the deeper cut references, but the bar to entry is exceedingly low – you’re much better served by a willingness to go with the flow and get in the groove. This is high concept, high quality, and highly enjoyable. With its cast of queens and unapologetic, celebratory feminism, Six rules.

Six the Musical plays at the Sydney Opera House until April 2 2022. Snap up your tickets here

Written by
Travis Johnson

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