“Hamilton” opened the door for more musical history lessons. Now “Six” is taking full advantage.
Staged like a rock concert, it presents the six wives of Henry VIII as divas (“The Real Housewives of the Renaissance," perhaps) who want to know who had it the worst. In something of a sing-off, they tell their stories in song and dance like Destiny’s Child, never missing a moment to make like Beyonce.
Just looking at the Broadway cast, it’s easy to see who might play the roles in a big-screen venture. There are places for Lizzo, Ariana Grande, Rihanna and Bey. But this is such a forgiving show it could be populated by anyone and still be a crowd pleaser.
Created by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, it grabs with a “Chicago”-like opening number, then lets the queens sass and sashay their ways into the hearts of theatergoers. Thanks to stadium-like lighting and a sound system that would make Adele drool, “Six” pulls you into the story of those who were “divorced, beheaded, died; divorced beheaded, survived.” There’s more than a little contemporary spin on the circumstances, but this is hardly a “Masterpiece” entry on PBS.
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Purists, in fact, may be put off by Marlow and Moss’ storytelling. Teens will love it.
Largely, that’s because the songs are so good. If you haven’t heard at least one of them, you haven’t been paying attention. “All You Wanna Do” has been a favorite since it first came out. And why not? It moves, it tells a story and it lets Samantha Pauly dis and dish with the best of them. She’s Katherine Howard (in case you’re keeping score), the “pink” wife (yup, they’re color-coded) who sings the number like it’s the big seller a rock group would do just before the encore.
So much, in fact, has been massaged into place, you’ll marvel at how slick Moss and co-director Jamie Armitage manage to make the show. This is timed and toned to within an inch of its life and yet there’s still an opportunity to play with the audience. Under these conditions, “Six” likely could run forever.
As good as the six are (they’re backed by an all-female band), they could be swapped out without notice and nothing would suffer. (On the night I saw it, Keirsten Nicole Hodgens was Anne of Cleves and she had the moves to pull off the rap, “Get Down.”)
Abby Mueller (as Jane Seymour) gets the big power ballad; Adrianna Hicks (as Catherine of Aragon) sets the show’s tone and Joy Woods (as Catherine Parr) has the duty to pull it all together.
Andrea Macasaet (as Anne Boleyn) gets to be the funny one with “Don’t Lose Ur Head.” When the others share their “boo-hoo” moments, she always pulls it back to her plight. The show is so clever you almost want to see how Moss and Marlow turned a doodle during a poetry class at Cambridge University into this.
While “Six” won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, it should please the TikTok crowd’s sense of pace. It never lights too long on a subject and reaches a conclusion that, oddly, isn’t far off from ones other musicals (like “A Chorus Line”) have offered.
“Six” hits the #MeToo movement as well and – best of all – suggests you just might want to go back to those dusty history books and see how juicy the content was. This drips with drama and, as kids on “American Bandstand” used to say, “has a good beat and you can dance to it.”