Review by Annabelle Rosewarne
If you’re not living your life in a way that would have gotten you beheaded in the 1500’s are you really even living?
Empowering, uplifting and fierce, Six the Musical has officially opened at the Sydney Opera House! This is not a show you want to miss, and there’s no excuse – it’s running until April, 2022. After a hugely successful premiere on the West End, and its Australian debut in 2020, the show is back and just as punchy as ever. Created by British writers Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss, Six the Musical is a snappy 75-minute Pop Concert meets Broadway Musical, following the lives of the six ill-fated wives of Henry VIII.
We’ve all heard of the six wives of Henry VIII, maybe we’ve even studied them back in high school. But this is no history lesson. This is history with a rebellious twist... in fact, it’s HERstory. A fabulous reclamation of the past, these Tudor ladies become colourful rhinestone-studded Pop Queens, belting their hearts out and re-telling their old stories through a new lens.
The Concert operates under the guise of a competition, with the wives facing off to crown one queen as having the worst experience with Henry. One by one, they take the stage in a solo act to try their hand at winning the not-so-glamorous title...It’s a stiff competition due to their infamous fates (divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived).
With each musical number, It’s the 1500’s no more. The 21st Century Pop songs all have “Queenspirations” that heavily influence the sound and feel of each song, with the occasional easter-egg in there too (Hint: Beyoncé’s ‘Survivor’). The first Queen to take the stage is the powerful and feisty Catherine of Aragon (inspired by Beyonce and Shakira), played by Phoenix Jackson Mendoza. Mendoza’s stage presence immediately captivates the audience during her solo number “No Way”.
Next up on the line-up is Kala Gare as the spunky Anne Boleyn (with nods to Lily Allen and Avril Lavigne), whose cheeky performance of “Don’t Lose Ur Head” is charming and boisterous. Her version of Boleyn is very trendy and cool, using lingo that the tiktokers of the world would go wild for. One can see why the show has a cult following and a young ‘hip’ fan base.
A standout moment of the show was undoubtedly Loren Hunter as Jane Seymour. Her Adele/Sia inspired power-ballad “Heart of Stone”, pulled on the audience’s heart strings. Her performance was raw and vulnerable, yet vocally powerful.
Bringing the mood back up again is Kiana Daniele as Anne of Cleves, taking us on a brief journey to Germany with “Haus of Holbein” – Ja! Complete with neon sunglasses and Tudor frilled collars, we are granted some comedic relief in a nightclub rave style dance number. A clever reference is made to the modern world of online dating, with the Queens striking a pose only for them to be ‘swiped right’ or ‘left’. Daniele’s rendition of ‘Get Down’ taking inspiration from Nicki Minaj and Rihanna, is rebellious and grounded with a stick-it-to-the-man attitude.
Katherine Howard, played by Chelsea Dawson, brings a more flirtatious energy to the show. Her song “All You Wanna Do” (inspired by the likes of Ariana Grande and Britney Spears) is saucy and riddled with innuendo, only to then turn to a dark commentary on the way society, and men, sexualises women’s bodies. Whilst it begins light-hearted, the dance moves turn more aggressive, grabbing and struggling, leaving us with an ultimately thought-provoking number.
Last but definitely not least is powerhouse Vidya Makan who plays Catherine Parr. Her stunning vocals in “I Don’t Need Your Love” take us on a journey from a place of competition, to ultimately supporting and uplifting one another. Uniting together, the Queens decide to reshape the way we see women as competition (as we would through the eyes of Henry VIII) and rather celebrate these women for the strong and unique characters that they are. Well...were.
It’s no easy feat running a Queendom, and a special mention deserves to go to offstage swings/Dance Captain Chiara Assetta, Karis Oka and Shannen Alyce Quan. Swings are responsible for covering multiple roles, and could go on stage at a moment’s notice, generally being considered the hardest role in theatre. A mention also goes to Costume designer Gabriella Slade for her iconic edgy Tudor-meets-pop-princess designs. Lastly, the rocking all-female band with Keys, Drums, Bass, and Guitar, is reason alone to see the show.
Relying so heavily on music (rather than a plotline), the Sound team on this show have done a wonderful job. Led by Paul Gatehouse as Sound Designer, the mix on this show was flawless, and really gave the impression of being at an explosive pop concert.
Together the Six Queens display tight harmonies, impressive riffs, and leave us with a positive and fabulously feminist message. By all means, join the sisterhood and see this royally remarkable show.