Tudor royalty meets “The Real Housewives,” “The First Wives Club,” and the sounds and styles of major pop divas (including Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Lily Allen, Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande, Christina Aguilera, and Rihanna, to name a few) in the feel-good and frothy musical “Six,” which takes the form of an 80-minute electro-pop concert starring the notorious six wives of King Henry VIII.
“Six” improbably sprang to life about as a school project by Cambridge students Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. Since premiering at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017, “Six” has played a UK tour, London’s West End, Australia, a North American tour and even Norwegian Cruise Line ships. A 2018 studio cast album was streamed 47 million times in 2019.
Back in March 2020, the show was in previews on Broadway. But just a few hours before its opening night performance, Broadway shut down due to COVID-19. (My review of the show, which was scheduled to be published the following morning, had to be pulled due to the circumstances.) Appropriately, “Six” is now the first new musical to open on Broadway since the shutdown – with its original cast in tow.
After repeating the famous children’s rhyme about their fates (“Divorced, Beheaded, Died; Divorced, Beheaded, Survived”), the six wives (in glitzy, spiky, metallic-tinged costumes) introduce themselves in chronological order: Catherine of Aragon (Adrianna Hicks), Anne Boleyn (Andrea Macasaet), Jane Seymour (Abby Mueller), Anna of Cleves (Brittney Mack), Katherine Howard (Samantha Pauly) and Catherine Parr (Anna Uzele).
The women (portrayed with vigor and sex appeal by the diverse six-member cast) have supposedly formed a band which is now going out on tour. They agree that the lead singer will be the one who suffered the most misfortune at the hands of Henry VIII, so each performs a solo about her life and fate. By the time of the celebratory finale and curtain call mega-mix (titled the “megasix”), they decide to cast side self -objectification and patriarchy and embrace themselves.
Their songs are high-powered, extremely catchy, and surprisingly layered, full of clever wordplay, historical tidbits, and character development. (I must confess that I have listened to the 42-minute cast album countless times.) A standout is Anne Boleyn’s naughty schoolgirl-style “Don’t Lose Ur Head,” in which she mischievously claims that she is “sorry not sorry” about tempting the king to leave Catherine of Aragon start “the C of E” (i.e. Church of England).
Notwithstanding the dynamic score, “Six” is weighed down by a labored book (which is built around a flimsy setup and banal banter), bargain-basement scenic design, and clunky dance choreography. That being said, “Six,” which was highly anticipated before the shutdown, still has the makings of a solid hit. The history-meets-contemporary pop concept certainly worked out well for a little show called “Hamilton,” and it is easy to imagine “Six” appealing to teen girls, history buffs, and many others.
“Six” plays an open run at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. 225 W. 47th St., sixthemusical.com.