The In-Person Experience: Broadway’s Six the Musical
Opening Night, and hopefully, second time’s the charm. I was actually in the air flying in from Toronto back in March 2020 when it was announced in response to the pandemic that Broadway was going dark on the very night Six the Musical was supposed to open. What a flurry of emails I got when the plane landed in LGA. And now, 18 months later, this feisty new musical is finally getting that official glittery opening night on Broadway it most assuredly deserves. Huzzah! Broadway is Back!
For this theatre junkie, this past week in NYC was quite the wild-ride back-in-the-saddle kind of experience. It was my first week in the city since March 16, 2020, but I landed just in time to gather appropriately with friends for the long delayed (sorta weirdly constructed) Tony Awards. Everything felt just so appropriate and perfect as the week ran forward with a frenzy with one play (and friend-filled dinner/drinks) after the other. Six was the first new musical of the bunch and the season, and the fifth show of my return after the same 18 months away. When I saw this show back in March of 2020, weeks before the Broadway lockdown, I thought it to be one of those totally exciting thrill rides, void of all concern with the problems of the world. Just pure fun and effervescence. I had already seen the royal romp in the West End in the fall of 2019 when I wandered over to the Arts Theatre in London on my last day of a theatre-filled week and luckily, got myself a last minute ticket to the Dress Circle on a Sunday matinee. Surrounded by some of the most excited teenagers around, there and then, and here and now on Broadway, Six pranced itself delightfully forward, delivering a bow down to all the talented Queens kind of experience, that will reign supreme for years to come in this sure-to-be-hit musical that has already captivated London, Edinburgh, and world all over.
Little did I know that on the 2020 opening night of Six the Musical, Broadway would be slapped upside the head by COVID, and shut down for what felt like an eternity. Eighteen months of darkness, and that Spice Girl/Dead Queen pop concert had to hold off opening, until this very moment when the lights could be turned back on. Thankfully I was gifted once again, to witness them taking their honorable place, back on the throne at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on 47th Street, Broadway. Featuring the very same likes of Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour and crew, these talented (and patient) divas have reassembled on stage to battle out competitively the telling of their personal sad tales through song and dance, all centered around the trauma of what it was like to be married to the formidable King Henry VIII.
Sounds light and silly, and it certainly is that, but so much more fun than PBS. The crowd was, quite naturally, on fire, screaming with even more wild enthusiasm and approval for each and every one of these pop royal girls than either of the other two performances I saw. My eardrums are still ringing, somewhat, from all the very excited teenage girl energy. The thrilled applause that flew out was well deserved and loud, as these six women continued to know just how to deliver the crown in pop styled abundance. As directed by Lucy Moss (Soho/Bedlam’s Pelican: The Cat Man Curse) and Jamie Armitage (Tristan Bates Theatre’s Love Me Now), the Six deceased sing and chant their divine order, “Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived” with Britney-abandonment, and the enthusiastic crowd of eager disciples eat it all up, each and every smart witticism and knowing wink.
Moss, with Toby Armitage (Hot Gay Time Machine) as the creators, have done the impossible, creating quite the hell-raising sex-dynamo within the writing of Six, gifting each of the determined young gals the charismatic willpower and astounding vocal range to demand that they not be erased from history. The witty concept is a musical version of some sort of British Historical Idol, with the ‘winner’ hoping to be crowned the queen with the saddest story. “Sorry, Not Sorry“, says one contestant to another, as they dive in and deliver. It’s snappy in its dialogue, making it a joyful pleasure to crown this cast with the highest praise, and a whole castle full of fun is on stage to behold. It’s not deep, by any means, but not all musical theatre has to be Company, I guess (although I’m not entirely sure I believe that statement day in and day out).
“What hurts more than a broken heart?” asks Jane Seymour, as portrayed by the dynamic dynamo Abby Mueller (Broadway’s Kinky Boots), as she attempts to claim her story is the saddest. “A severed head,” fires back with a solid snap from Anne Boleyn, feistily portrayed by the whip-smart and wonderful Andrea Macasaet (Heathers), my cast favorite. Backed by the solid Ladies In Waiting band (Musical Director/Keyboard: Julia Schade; Drums: Elena Bonomo; Guitar: Kimi Hayes; Bass: Michelle Osbourne), the foxy dead ladies; Seymour, Boleyn, Catherine of Aragon, played by the magnificent Adrianna Hicks (Broadway’s The Color Purple), Anna of Cleves, portrayed by fantastic Brittney Mack (Networks’ Memphis), Katherine Howard, played by Insta-famous Samantha Pauly (Regent’s Park Open Air’s Evita), and Catherine Parr, portrayed by talented Anna Uzele (Broadway’s Once on This Island), are each given their moment to shine in the spotlight in the most fun and accessible way. Macasaet’s Boleyn gets a smart “Don’t Lose Your Head” number; Mueller’s Seymour is gifted with a well delivered ballad, and Pauly’s Katherine Howard gets a terrific “All You Wanna Do” moment to detail the way she had been groomed for this reigning post since the age of 13.
Mack’s Anne of Cleves has almost too much friggin’ fun enjoying life as a divorcee living large in her own castle, thanks to Henry VIII, and Hicks’ Catherine of Aragon, dismissing Uzele’s Catherine Parr as the least relevant one, playful embraces the sharp-tongued wit of this frothy exploration of female victimhood and the demand to be remembered. The choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille (National Theatre’s The Suicide) hits all the right pop gum marks, accentuating the sparkly black costumes by Gabriella Slade (“Spice World“) lit by the enthusiastic concert lighting of Tim Deiling (West End’s American Idiot). Embraced enthusiastically by the Edinburgh fringe when it emerged on fire as a student production, the lively full-throttle show has amassed quite the following, filling theatres all over the world, even after all the darkness. And no wonder, this sassy and fun musical is a beacon of light, and one wisely executed (excuse the pun) thesis on girl power. The Six strutt forward with queen-like assuredness, demanding to be taken seriously to the sound of whimsical harpsichord remixes and a driving pop score. How could that not be the most fun 80 minutes on Broadway? Just leave your studious PBS selves at home, and embrace the rebirth of Broadway. Give these ladies their thrones, finally!