Six The Musical
Now onstage at Toronto's Royal Alexandra Theatre
Credit: Joan Marcus. Pictured: Julia Pulo (centre) and Jaz Robinson
Sassy, Sultry and Sexy Girl Power! This ‘Six’ is a Ten!
I have read online and heard through the Sirius XM Broadway Channel that ‘Six’ is an immersive concert cum theatre production. My first initial thought – which is it? A concert or a theatre production?
For this Toronto production, it doesn’t matter.
‘Six’ is just plain ol’ terrific fun. Yes it's all superficial, but that's okay. These Canadian beauties sashay with sassy, sultry and sexy Girl Power energy. Just enjoy that. Plus, we get a twenty-first-century history lesson about the six wives of King Henry VIII that hopefully may encourage young audience members to want to study the Social Sciences.
Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’s sharp, witty, and clever book is a modern retelling of Henry’s six wives in a pop concert format with this Toronto stop of the ‘Divorced/Beheaded Tour’. I loved the tongue-in-cheek tour title. Some of the show’s merchandise includes the proverbial ball cap embroidered on the back with the tour’s title.
The show’s premise is easy to follow. Each wife shares the story of her initial encounter with the king. In this process, they tell the audience the band’s lead singer will be the prize for whoever they determine had the worst experience at the hands of their shared husband. History tells us two things regarding these women – they were either divorced or beheaded, with one wife outliving the king. For those unfamiliar with the wives' history, a brief synopsis of each woman is given in the program. Here’s a quick rundown: Catherine of Aragon (divorced), Anne Boleyn (beheaded), Jane Seymour (died), Anna of Cleves (divorced), Katherine Howard (beheaded), Catherine Parr (outlived her husband). Two recognizable modern female singers are the ‘Queenspiration’ for each wife.
Upon entering the Royal Alexandra Theatre auditorium, Emma Bailey’s Scenic and Paul Gatehouse’s Sound Designs create a regal look and sound. A closed curtain is adorned with the regal colour mauve and gold stripes. The musical sound of a spinet playing Elizabethan songs can be heard preshow. At the top of the production, each wife enters solo through a pulled-back curtain. Finally, the semi-circular stage of two risers with band members (The Ladies in Waiting) playing becomes visible, and off we go.
Gabriella Slade’s colourful, sometimes glowing and stiff costume designs are reminders of a futuristic Jane and Judy Jetson wardrobe (I think my age is showing here). Tim Deiling’s Lighting Design is reminiscent of pop concert performances from The Spice Girls and Back Street Boys.
Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s strutting choreography delightfully ranges from swaying hips and pelvic thrusts to elegant arm movements and finger-pointing. Directors Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage keep the show’s pacing tight. It appears many in the audience around me have either seen the show or, most likely, have listened to the live or taped album recordings. I’ve done neither and wonder if I should have done so.
Tom Curran’s orchestrations strongly indicate why the production appeals to young people. It’s loud, but not deafening. Liz Baird’s enthusiastic Music Direction becomes roof-raising. There are moments when I can’t hear all the lyrics because it’s loud; however, this time, it’s no big deal. That’s why YouTube is there. If you know the songs, simply sit back, and enjoy.
This ensemble Canadian cast remains the reason to see ‘Six’. They’re freakin’ good.
Each of them is beautiful; their vocal range is astounding, and the harmonies gloriously soar to the rafter heights of the theatre.
The opening song, ‘Ex-Wives,’ becomes a dazzling spectacle of light, sound, music, and dance. As the first and faithful wife Catherine of Aragon, the lanky Jaz Robinson uses her height to sometimes emphasize that her response will be ‘No Way’. Julia Pulo’s Anne Boleyn (Aragon’s lady in waiting and usurper of her husband) comically explains what happened to her in ‘Don’t Lose Ur Head’. Maggie Lacasse is Jane Seymour, whom Henry has supposedly and truly loved. She dies in childbirth, giving him the male heir he wants. Lacasse’s heartfully poignant ‘Heart of Stone’ slows the show’s pacing momentarily and allows the audience to listen to the song’s moving lyrics. She hits a high note in the song, sending the audience into rapturous applause.
Krystal Hernández’s Anna of Cleves is a riot in ‘Get Down’. At the performance, she makes eye contact with an audience member who relishes the opportunity to stand up and do what she asks of him. Elysia Cruz’s Katherine Howard’s sharp commentary of ‘All You Wanna Do’ becomes a potent reminder of why she is the other wife who is beheaded. Lauren Mariassosay is Catherine Parr, the wife who outlives Henry. Her letter to Thomas Seymour, the man she loved before the King entered the picture, is also touching.
Can’t forget the four Ladies in Waiting, the band members, either. They become integral parts of the show. I found my eyes going to them periodically and watching them play their instruments. These musicians are most certainly enjoying themselves as the wives are.
The last few minutes of the show are a re-mix akin to what occurs in the conclusion of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’. This is the only time when tonight’s audience is allowed to pull out their phones.
Why should you see ‘Six’?
I enjoyed it, but something became apparent as I left the auditorium.
This production is a celebration of womanhood. In our twenty-first century woke world right now, there’s a danger either of the erasure of women or a usurping of their individuality by ‘others’. 'Six' is a celebration of women getting and understanding each other and their uniqueness in a way we men cannot.
How do I know this? On the way out, women were reaching out to other women, and I heard comments like: “I feel your tears, sister”. “I get it, sister. Let the tears flow.” “I’m crying too, sister.”
Ah, the power of theatre, when it hits.
Running time: approximately 80 minutes with no intermission at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre, 260 King Street West.
As of this article, tickets can be purchased up to December 17. I have a feeling the show will be an open-ended run, so keep checking back at www.mirvish.com or call 1-800-461-3333.
SIX THE MUSICAL by Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss
Scenic Design: Emma Bailey
Costume Design: Gabriella Slade
Lighting Design: Tim Deiling, Sound Design: Paul Gatehouse,
Orchestrations: Tom Curran
Music Director: Liz Baird
Music Supervision: Joe Beighton
Choreography: Carrie-Anne Ingrouille
Directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage
Performers: Jaz Robinson, Julia Pulo, Maggie Lacasse, Krystal Hernández, Elysia Cruz, Lauren Mariasoosay, Hailey Lewis, Julia McLellan, Abigail Sparrow, Darcy Stewart