(Her Majesty’s Theatre, 27 May 2022)
Six the Musical, a pop music retelling of the story of the wives of Henry the Eighth of England was royally received in London, New York and Sydney. We are pleased to say that the Adelaide audience loved it just as much as Henry VIII adored Anne Boleyn, and not just at the beginning of it all. The capacity crowd cheered when the six wives appeared in a London pea-souper of dry ice mist and they were on their feet dancing when the queens gloriously asserted their individuality and agency at the end of the 75 minute feminist joy fest.
Wisely, the obvious comparison to Tudor Spice Girls and the old mnemonic “Divorced, beheaded, died…divorced, beheaded, survived,” were got out of the way early on. Each of the unfortunate women sang a solo number – unapologetic in the case of the famously ambitious Anne Boleyn and melancholy in the case of the softer Jane Seymour who died in childbirth. Best though were the numbers when all six joined in – exuberant, on-key and energetic.
The small stage of Her Majesty’s Theatre (or should that be Her Majesties’ Theatre?) – closed for years in order to be renovated to look exactly the same, right down to the inconvenient foyer – was adorned only with with cathedral shaped “windows”, thus putting all the emphasis on the performers and their costumes. These Tudor-meets-jazz-ballet costumes were, in part, perhaps a letdown. The skirts worn by Anne Boleyn (Kala Gare) and in particular, Jane Seymour (Loren Hunter) were oddly proportioned and unflattering. Katherine Howard (Chelsea Dawson) though, all in pink, was appropriately sexy as she reminded us that Anne Boleyn was not the only one who lost her head due to (apparent) adultery.
Catherine of Aragorn (Phoenix Jackson Mendoza) was the most Tudor, pearl-studded and glamorous as befits perhaps the only legitimate queen. Anne of Cleves (Kiane Daniele) was made to look peculiar and unattractive in accordance with her reputation. Catherine Parr (Vidya Makan) (the survivor) was decked in an oddly modern jumpsuit and virtually crownless.
This show is not for those wishing to perfect their knowledge of English history: it reinforces the clichés in an anachronistically and manipulative modern light, but it does enliven our understanding of these 16th century historical figures as real people. In an imaginative coda the women talk about what they might have been, had they not caught the cruel eye of a lascivious and inconstant monarch. No man appears on stage to dim their light – no Henry, no Wolseley, no Cromwell, no Pope. The most excellent band is all female.
[Great stuff. Perhaps the show could be expanded (and the ladies afforded a short break) by a solo sad-funny number where Cardinal Wolsey, at Hampton Court, laments that whilst females are, after all, just chattels, they are harder the herd than cats…Ed.]