Sometimes it takes a while for the stars to align. After red-hot tryouts in Edinburgh, the UK, and Chicago, SIX, the new musical, was supposed to open in New York City in March 2020. There were mutterings about national tours and even a movie. But that was an ill-starred month for just about all of us. The lockdown hit on opening night, cutting the legs out from under what was supposed to be the big show of the year. And for two years all productions hung in limbo, bleeding money and driving the actors crazy. But at last they’re on the Great White Way, and I nipped in to a performance a couple weeks ago!
Historical musicals have always been popular. To put an up-to-date musical spin onto hoary historical events is as close to sure-fire as you ever get in the theater. Remember 1776? Oklahoma? Hamilton? Les Miserables? Not only were these shows a great way to learn about the Founding Fathers or the Paris uprising of 1832. They’re an introduction to new music forms. You see Hamilton or In the Heights and you understand why rap is so fun!
Six already hits a lot of important notes. A show about the six wives of Henry VIII can finally give voice to women who had very nearly no platform in their time. All a wronged woman could do in the 1500s, mostly, was to write letters to men begging them to intervene for justice. One of the slogans for this show is the famous rhyme about the wives: Divorced, Beheaded, Died; Divorced, Beheaded, Survived. Finally in this show we get the viewpoint of the victims.
This is an all-woman production, both the band and the actors. And they’re singing female pop songs, channeling the women who are stars today: Adele, Miley Cyrus, Alison Keys, Beyoncé. It’s almost unbelievably catchy, songs as adhesive as Velcro. There is no real plot or suspense, since we all know precisely what happened. The device of a pop music contest is so familiar to us that it needs no explanation. The six wives are really only known to us as connections of their famous husband. To see them now, finally belting out in their own voice, is amazingly moving.