Whether we’re history buffs or not, we’ve all heard of Henry VIII (pronounced ‘Henry the 8th’) in some shape or form and his wives, some of which were divorced or beheaded. SIX turns history on its head (pun intended) and focuses more on the stories of his wives, each with their own trials, tribulations, and solos.
Originally intended for Melbourne in 2020 but sadly interrupted due to the global pandemic, SIX, written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, co-directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage, has finally arrived in Melbourne with its opening night being held at the Comedy Theatre on the 23rd of June 2022. With a cast of only, well, six, accompanied by a full female band, the show, although a musical, feels more like the perfect combination between a cabaret show and a concert.
The cast consists of Phoenix Jackson Mendoza as Catherine of Aragon, Kala Gare as Anne Boleyn, Loren Hunter as Jane Seymour, Kiana Daniele as Anna of Cleves, Chelsea Dawson as Katherine Howard, and Vidya Makan as Catherine Parr. Each queen has their own uniquely stunning, sparkly outfit and signature colour to suit their personalities, designed by Gabriella Slade, that would be right at home at a glam rock concert, pop concert, or Eurovision. The concert style atmosphere is only enhanced by the clever choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille and Tim Deiling‘s lighting design.
Modernising their stories to be relatable, SIX cleverly relates to pop culture, using modern slang, referencing dating apps, and leaves no stone unturned, boldly addressing misogyny, infidelity, sexualisation, domestic abuse, murder, and miscarriages. Although these topics can be quite dark, SIX successfully manages to visit these topics without ever overwhelming its audience and shifting the overall mood of the show, which is quite an impressive feat considering the musical’s 75-minute runtime. I admittedly did expect the show to have more to say, but I also understand the directorial choice not to, considering its very short timeframe.
With clear inspiration from female solo music artists such as Beyoncé, Avril Lavigne, Adele, Nicki Minaj and Britney Spears, SIX is incredibly easy to digest, whether you be an avid concert goer, theatre nerd, or casual musical fan. It also helps that the songs are catchy as hell. My favourite numbers consisted of Boleyn’s ‘Don’t Lose Ur Head’, Howard’s ‘All You Wanna Do’, and Parr’s ‘I Don’t Need Your Love’.
Performance wise, every member of the cast delivers in spades and look to be having the time of their lives while doing it. Mendoza reigns as the sassy and royally fierce Aragon, Hunter possibly has the most heartbreaking yet heartfelt moment of the show with her ballad and pure vocals as Seymour, Daniele’s Cleves is played with an honest sense of humour and humility, and Dawson’s Howard is fantastic and sickening in every way.
However, it would be a crime not to mention how impressive Kala Gare is in her role as fan favourite, Boleyn. Her character’s rebellious, outspoken, mischievous yet carefree attitude is extremely relatable, making Boleyn hard not to love. Gare’s power, vocal talent and charisma is also undeniable. Swing, Shannen Alyce Quan also filled in for Vidya Makan on opening night, donning the role of Parr, and she absolutely killed it. Her killer vocals and excellent stage presence only makes me excited for her promising future in Australian theatre.
Not only is SIX fun, fierce, and very female, with historical facts to boot, but it honestly just makes for a great night out. Recently winning the 2022 Tony Awards for Best Costume Design in a Musical and Best Original Score, regardless of whether musicals or concerts are your thing, SIX is a show you have to see at least once.
Run, don’t walk, to see SIX while it is in Melbourne. The musical is currently playing at the Comedy Theatre until August 7th, with plans for the production to head over to Brisbane and New Zealand in the not-too-distant future.
For more information and ticketing, visit: https://www.sixthemusical.com/australia
Photography by Grant Alexander.