Six: Mean Girl Wives of Henry VIII
A musical of tongue-in-cheek divas, this buoyant import delivers what it promises: six irreverent women claiming their place in history, “live in consort” to the visceral beat of a hot band. Hello New York, how’re you doin’? they ask. Remember us from PBS? they sing.
It doesn’t seem to matter to the audience that lyrics are predominantly lost in sound. This is a pity. Though some are pedestrian (Catherine Paar’s “I Don’t Need Your Love”), others are quick and clever. All succinctly cover a queen’s history packaged in distinct attitude.
The six “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived” are Catherine of Aragon (Adrianna Hicks), Anne Boleyn (Andrea Macasaet), Jane Seymour (Alternate Mallory Maedke), Anna of Cleves (Brittney Mack) Katherine Howard (Alternate Courtney Mack), and Catherine Parr (Anna Uzele). Casting is as diverse as it gets.
Owning aspirations to competition (no, we don’t get to vote) that’s not so much about talent (though the ladies excel) as to who had the toughest life, the wry printed program not only fills you in, but attributes to every ex-royal chosen “Queenspiration” like Beyoncé, Shakira, or Adele.
Adrianna Hicks (center)
Each queen showcases an 11 o’clock number featuring a soul, hip-hop, pop, or Broadway arrangement. Between, they taunt and insult one another with brio. “Seven years without an heir and he starts coming home late…” bemoans Catherine of Aragon. What’s a girl to do?! “I wanna dance and sing/Politics are not my thing…we might elope, but the Pope said nope…” sings narcissistic, girls-just-wanna-have-fun Anne Boleyn. “I mean he just really liked my head.” (Henry had it chopped off.)
Jane Seymour, like Tammy Wynette, stood by her man no matter what. “Without my son, your love would disappear/ But I don’t care, because my love would still be here…What hurts more than a broken heart?” she says asking for compassion. “A severed head!” snaps Anne. Anna of Cleves arrives with ersatz cherman accent and Danny Kaye-ish guttural sounds. Rejected because she didn’t resemble her “profile” (a Holbein painting), the feisty queen was “forced to move into a palace with more money than I could spend in a lifetime and not a single man to tell me what to do with it!” Oh dear! An audience member in the front row spontaneously stands and bows.
“My son had to deal with the loss of his mother,” Jane protests. (She died in childbirth.) “My body experienced the loss of my head!” Anne persists. “Yeah same,” Katherine Howard interjects. “I was asked to be his little piece of ass-sistant,” the girl-who-can’t-say-no continues. “Touch me, love me,” she coos to men who use her. “And then I was beheaded.”
Brittany Mack (center)
Catherine Parr had her own fair share of marriages. Having met the love of her life, she’s forced to marry Henry instead. “Dear Tom,” she writes to the pining swain, ”you know I love you, boy.” “I don’t need your love,” she fantasizes telling her King. This Queen went on to write books and participate in the Reformation. Not a life that elicits much sympathy. Overall resolution will be disappointing to those hoping for a cat fight, but sisterhood brings the theater to its feet.
The show is well directed for visuals and pacing.
Of the actresses, Andrea Macaset’s sniping, preening Anne Boleyn and Brittany Mack’s gloating Anna of Cleves particularly shine. Both ladies exhibit fine comic timing.
Physical production is terrific. Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s choreography is tight, fast, provocative, full body expression with an adroit eye to aesthetics. Costumes by Gabriella Slade are Tudor punk, each with its own flamboyant personality. Despite a Las Vegas vibe, they don’t look cheap. Even hair is cool. Tim Deiling’s lighting manages to flow, flash, and shape attractively without distracting from performers.
So, like a meringue, it’s pretty spun sugar with a lot of air inside. Choose as you will.
Photos by Joan Marcus
Six – the Musical
Written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss
Directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage
Sound Design – Paul Gatehouse
Excellent Band: The Ladies in Waiting – Julia Schade-Conductor/Keyboard,
Michelle Osbourne – Bass, Kimi Hayes – Guitars, Elena Bonoma – Drums
Brooks Atkinson Theatre
256 West 47th Street