Book, lyrics and music by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage
Review by Saskia Johnson
Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived. When it comes to the stories of Henry VIII’s wives, most of us will only be familiar with these one-word summaries of their harrowing fates. In their Tony-award-winning, tour de force musical, SIX, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss have sought to rectify the injustices of historic female representation. Relying on the politically charged and socially precarious Tudor times as a framework, Marlow and Moss set the standard for empowering women’s voices and allow them to tell their own side of the story.
Under the brilliant direction of Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage, the Queens took to the stage to prove once and for all whose story was the most tragic, and therefore the worthiest to be lead singer of the group. Drawing inspiration from modern day queens such as Beyonce, Adele, Alicia Keys, Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne, each of the six Queens take back the microphones to prove that they are more than their famous one-word descriptors.
Melbourne’s opening night audience was in fine form, treating every riff, joke and dance move to a raucous reception – it was impossible not to get swept up in the excitement. Since its 2017 debut at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, SIX has inspired an army of worshiping fans and it is easy to see why. From the incredibly catchy music to Gabrilla Slade’s exquisite costumes, to the all-female on-stage band dubbed the “Ladies in Waiting”, SIX can be summed up in one word: iconic.
Our Australian Queens dazzled and amazed, inspiring several show stopping applause breaks and an instant standing ovation. Beginning with Catherine of Aragon, Henry’s first wife played by the fierce and sympathetic Phoenix Jackson Mendoza whose beautifully grounded performance paved the way for Kala Gare’s mischievous Anne Boleyn to wreak havoc. Adding a touch of Aussie self-deprecating humour to the Avril Lavigne style punk attitude ensured that Gare truly made the role her own. The mood shifted as Loren Hunter moved to the center of the stage to deliver her heart wrenching ballad as the doting mother and loving wife, Jane Seymour, with unshakable levels of gravitas. With an exceptional command of the stage and immaculate comedic timing, Kiana Daniele swept in as the brazen and hilarious Anna of Cleves. Chelsea Dawson gave an exquisite performance as the promiscuous yet vastly misunderstood Katherine Howard. Her powerful vocals lent perfectly to what turned out to be the most moving song of the night, and to wrap it all up opening night audiences were in for a treat with swing Shannen Alyce Quan stepping into the role of Catherine Parr, the “survivor”. Quan’s incredible vocal control and heartfelt acting was met with well-deserved thunderous applause.
A perfect dose of empowerment that will get you belting your lungs out, dancing in the aisles and feeling like a Queen.
The show is not without its flaws, particularly in its writing of Anne Boleyn, the show does little to veer away from the tired portrayal of Anne as a homewrecker and a seductress which seems like a wasted opportunity to rectify the hundreds of years of false vilification at the hands of men. Similarly, Jane Seymour could have benefitted from further fleshing out; whilst the other queens were wonderfully complex, Seymour lacked depth, particularly in her song “Heart of Stone,” which contained a lot of belting with very little substance. However, any criticisms of the writing are easily overlooked thanks to the extraordinary production value.
With humble beginnings as a passion project between friends to growing into a supernova global smash hit, surviving global pandemics to finally making its way onto Melbourne’s historic Comedy Theater stage SIX is everything you could want in a theatre experience. A perfect dose of empowerment that will get you belting your lungs out, dancing in the aisles and feeling like a Queen.
Images Credit: James D Morgan
SIX the Musical plays at Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre before touring to New Zealand and Brisbane, more details to be announced soon. Tickets for SIX can be booked here.
Duration is 75 minutes with no interval
Age guidance 10+ years
This production uses strobe effects, theatrical haze and loud music
Comedy Theatre Melbourne
Until August 21st 2022
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
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