Review by Justin Clarke
Book, Music and Lyrics by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, Directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage, Choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille
Since the show’s beginning at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, SIX has played to sold out theatres across the world. SIX triumphantly returns to the Sydney Opera House on the opening leg of its Australasian tour and it’s clear that the Queens are back and more alive than ever!
SIX, blurs the line between a musical and a concert, which is what makes it so unique. With a 75-minute run time, no interval, a six-membered ensemble, and all-female band (The Ladies in Waiting), SIX breaks the mould of storytelling and brings intelligence, humour and sass with a great deal of social commentary.
Told from the perspectives of Catherine of Aragon (Phoenix Jackson Mendoza), Anne Boleyn (Kala Gare), Jane Seymour (Loren Hunter), Anna of Cleves (Kiana Daniele), Katherine Howard (Chelsea Dawson) and Catherine Parr (Vidya Makan), you’ll enter the show knowing them as Henry the Eighth’s six wives but leave the show asking, Henry who?
The music and lyrics by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss are inspired by powerful women in the music industry, and you’ll often find yourself recognising a certain melody or note each Queen belts. With melodic Queenspirations by artists such as Beyonce, Lily Allen, Adele, Rhianna, Britney Spears and Alicia Keys, Marlow and Moss have found a unique way to bring these historic women back to life through a contemporary score for a modern audience.
With social commentary on power, sexual corruption towards women in politics, and a feminist empowered message of women in herstory, SIX echoes a lot of truths for women today.
Mendoza’s Aragon boasts her claim of being Henry’s first wife, and therefore the most significant, and her sharp belts sets the tone for the ferocity of the stories to come.
Gare’s Boleyn plays the role in a style reminiscent of a north shore entitled teenager with humour and heart, really playing into her Avril Lavigne inspirations.
Bringing the upbeat tone of the show to a halt, Hunter’s Seymour draws you in with a tender ballad and offers a more honest and loving wife.
Quickly flipping the show back to its concert stylings, Daniele’s Cleves drops the bass and talk-sings her way through ‘Get Down’ with a great amount of humour and fun. She really revels in the Nicki Minaj inspired choreography.
Coming across as one of the more promiscuous Queens, Dawson’s portrayal of Howard quickly becomes more tragic, as her “unchaste life” is shown to come from abuse by those with power. The fact that Britney Spears is used to inspire her song and choreography brought a deeper layer to Dawson’s performance.
Rounding out the Queens, Makan’s Parr is the one to ultimately bring in a much-needed awareness to the argument the Queens are having. Makan plays Parr with a tenderness that doesn’t boast about her claim to have “survived” Henry’s love. Her song ‘I Don’t Need Your Love’ becomes the underlying truth that runs throughout SIX.
Having the show set in a concert style, almost cabaret in some respects, there are times when the energy dips and becomes a bit jarring given the variety of song stylings present. Ultimately, this makes the six Queens work harder to bring the audience back to the energy required for each number.
Emma Bailey’s set design is simple and tight, placing the Queens on a pop-concert style setting is enhanced by Tim Deiling’s LED lighting design. The standout in the production design is Gabriella Slade’s costumes. Each Queen has their own unique style and flair that has been woven into each sequin and stud that lines the fabric, and yet still has hints of the Tudor style of each of them as represented through herstory.
Under the musical direction of Claire Healy, the Ladies in Waiting were as much a part of the show as the Queens themselves. With Heidi Maguire on keys, Alysa Portelli on drums, Debbie Yap on guitar and Jessica Dunn on the bass, they were each honoured with their own spotlights and moments to shine throughout the show.
With social commentary on power, sexual corruption towards women in politics, and a feminist empowered message of women in herstory, SIX echoes a lot of truths for women today. Ultimately, SIX is a jam-packed, wholeheartedly entertaining performance that will have you cheering at the beginning and dancing with the Queens at the end.
Picture Credits: JAMES D MORGAN-GETTY IMAGES
SIX the Musical plays at the Sydney Opera House until April 2nd before departing on its Australasian Tour. Full tickets and information here.
Book, Music and Lyrics Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss
Directors Lucy Moss & Jamie Armitage
Choreographer Carrie-Anne Ingrouille
Set Designer Emma Bailey
Costume Designer Gabriella Slade
Lighting Designer Tim Deiling
Sound Designer Paul Gatehouse
Orchestrator Tom Curran
Musical Supervisor Joe Beighton
Catherine of Aragon Phoenix Jackson Mendoza
Anne Boleyn Kala Gare
Jane Seymour Loren Hunter
Anna of Cleaves Kiana Daniele
Katherine Howard Chelsea Dawson
Catherine Parr Vidya Makan
Dance Captain/Swing Chiara Assetta
Swing Karis Oka
Swing Shannen Alyce Quan