Review: “Six” Returns to Broadway
Theater-goers thirsty for something festive, fresh and funny – that is, just about any theater-goer who has endured the drought of the past 18 months – will find what they are looking for at the Brooks Atkinson Theater, where the musical “Six” opened.
As the Broadway mavens know, “Six” was scheduled to open the same night the industry was, to borrow a practical metaphor, beheaded by the pandemic stopping. There is a delightful symmetry in this musical being the first news to open since the return of Broadway. A wave of pure joy swept over the theater as soon as the first notes of the show were struck during the performance I attended.
The concept of the musical is probably familiar to theater fans, as its arrival on Broadway – in early spring 2020 – made it one of the hottest shows of the season. It had already been produced in London, in other theaters and even on a cruise ship (clutch beads). In short: In the show, written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, and directed by Moss and Jamie Armitage, Henry VIII’s six wives take turns, in chronological order of their marriage to this infamous historical figure, singing their testimonials for expertly crafted contemporary R&B music.
The show’s format is, to be honest, not that fresh, as it is borrowed from another medium. It is expressly modeled on the talent show shows that have proliferated since the disastrous advent of “American Idol”. But in a clever and fun twist, this show’s contestants sing about their conflict to allow audiences to vote on who has suffered the most, who has suffered the worst. Given that three of the contestants died prematurely – and two literally lost their minds – the competition is fierce. The show also borrows, equally cleverly, from the popular recipe that made Bravo’s reality shows about pampered women and their tedious and trivial woes such a huge success. Led by the sharp tongue of Andrea Macasaet’s Anne Boleyn, the queens sniper, snark and cast shade with abandon until they find solidarity and brotherhood in their victimization.
The simple set design, by Emma Bailey, seems to be modeled on the glitzy glamor of the TV competition. As each unfortunate bride takes their turn in the spotlight – Tim Deiling’s lighting also mimics the dramatic style of the aforementioned TV shows – the others lean on risers in the back, sometimes stepping forward to offer a bit of sympathy. or sarcastic. remark. (The small group – all women, in a nice touch – play from the back of the stage.)
You might think the performances are loaded with new vitality – the excitement so many people feel as Broadway blossoms again – but in my memory they were just as vibrant and fun when I saw the show for the show. first time. Macasaet gets many of the more chosen bloodlines – perhaps fitting, since Boleyn was, along with Katherine Howard, perhaps the most misused among a very misused culture. She infuses her performance with the kind of powerful personality that Boleyn would have; she nails jokes, and her semi-comedic song, “Don’t Lose Ur Head”, is one of the strongest.
But each performer shines in their own way: as Catherine of Aragon, the first of Henry’s wives, Adrianna Hicks demonstrates the acute and hurt dignity of a woman not only despised, but despised on a historical level. Abby Mueller’s Jane Seymour has a sweet pity that is entirely appropriate: she died shortly after giving birth – finally – to a male heir for Henry. Brittney Mack’s Anna of Cleves, ridiculed by Henry because in her opinion she did not look like the bride she had been promised in a flattering portrait (or, as she puts it in the contemporary vernacular used everywhere, as my profile picture ‘), sings a fiery song reveling in her relatively lucky fate – divorced but settled for life in luxury. As Katherine Howard, who has been accused of dating other men, Samantha Pauly has a slim, uncompromising, and hellish advantage with the judges. And like Catherine Parr, the last wife, who was lucky enough to survive the odious Henry (only one year, alas for her), Anna Uzele closes the contest by declaring with frank good humor that she knows she is is not likely to come at the head of the lottery for suffering. Instead, she displayed a keen sense of her own accomplishments, of which there were indeed many.
Parr becomes the main facilitator in the determination of women to come together and, in so doing, to reclaim their identity. They protest how history has reduced them to a number and a rhyme when, without them, Henry could have been a minor historical figure.
It’s tempting to eliminate the credentials I had (and have) about this admirably funny, bubbling musical, especially given its bumpy road to Broadway. Nonetheless, I eventually found a lot of the enjoyable bubble gum pop music that will either go in one ear and immediately come out of the other (guilty) or stay in your head permanently, depending on your penchant for them. imitated styles.
Inspired by various forms of dance music, the songs are skillfully honed but generally sounded familiar – not surprisingly, since in a program note the writers mention the pop stars who inspired them. Jane Seymour’s big solo, a near-powerful ballad titled “Heart of Stone”, could come straight from Celine Dion’s songbook, although the writers cite Adele and Sia as the song’s “Queenspiration”.. Howard’s powerfully paced “All You Wanna Do” reminded me of Britney Spears (who was indeed one of the inspirations), which I guess turns out to be perfectly fitting, as she is another woman. harmed by the system. There is a rather bland house number – “Haus of Holbein” – and nuances of Rihanna and Beyonc.é can be heard everywhere.
Perhaps more importantly, while the characters are in theory reclaiming their individuality and complex humanity, they are also being sexualized. in the costumes, and thus more or less reduced to clones of each other in their medieval outfit to meet Swarovski and their exposed flesh. They could swap out glittery costumes – which uncomfortably reminded me of Bratz dolls – and I doubt anyone was any wiser.
And more importantly, despite the often biting lyrics and dialogue, the musical doesn’t quite explore the historical figures it portrays with great depth of sentiment or insight. That might be impossible in an 80-minute show that has to carry the burden of introducing audiences to characters whose fates most Broadway music lovers may not have known.
Well, so be it. For those looking for pure entertainment, with songs of sung history, “Six” will be unadulterated fun. It will be, I confidently and hopefully expect, a long-term success, performing to audiences on Broadway and elsewhere longer than most of this miserable king’s weddings have lasted.
“Six” opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theater on October 3, 2021.
Review photo: Joan Marcus
Creation: book by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss; Music by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss; Words by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss; Directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage; Choreographed by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille; Stage design by Emma Bailey; Costume design by Gabriella Slade; Lighting design by Tim Deiling; Sound design by Paul Gatehouse.
Producers: Kenny Wax, Wendy & Andy Barnes, George Stiles and Kevin McCollum.
Cast: Adrianna Hicks, Andrea Macasaet, Brittney Mack, Abby Mueller, Samantha Pauly and Anna Uzele.