In Six, King Henry VII’s Wives Tell Their Truths

Full of Rock ’n’ Roll and Feminism, This Broadway-Bound Musical Shines

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In Six, King Henry VII’s Wives Tell Their Truths

"Six" is a musical about Henry VII's six wives.

Lara Garay

"Six" is a musical about Henry VII's six wives.

Lara Garay

Lara Garay

"Six" is a musical about Henry VII's six wives.

Bronwyn Legg, Contributing Writer

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Rating: 4.5/5 Falcons

As the curtain opened on the first night of Six at the American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.), I was instantly captivated by the smoke billowing out in huge puffs from both sides of the stage and bright strobe lights from the back of the theater, illuminating the silhouettes of the six wives of Henry VIII. Within seconds, the theatre was transformed into a pop concert and the queens emerged as talented singers with bedazzled corsets and metallic puff sleeves, constructing a perfect hybrid between royalty and rock ’n’ roll.

This modern musical offered a fresh take to this famous 16th-century English history and offered a sure-footed stamp of empowerment on the six wives of King Henry VIII, Queens Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr. The 75-minute musical at was choreographed by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, orchestrated by Tim Curran, music-directed by Roberta Duchak, and stage-directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage. 

The show was created originally by Cambridge University undergraduate students Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss and was intended only for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the world’s largest art festival, that takes place in Scotland every year. However, it was so well received, that it quickly went on to London’s West End, a major center of acclaimed British theater, where it became a raging success.

[Six] embodies the importance of representation, both in retelling history and on stage.”

Currently, the hit musical is sold out at the A.R.T., but the production is headed to Broadway, where it will be playing this winter starting in February until the end of this summer. It will also be playing in Chicago this summer. 

Throughout the production, each queen performs a solo musical number in chronological order to tell her tale, while the others sing backup. Each explains how she was brutally oppressed by the English monarchy: Catherine Aragon tells of being forced into an arranged marriage at the age of sixteen, to Anne Boleyn being beheaded after King Henry VIII met his next wife and needed a reason to divorce her, for example. The lyrics of each song are witty, and the vocals of the actresses are phenomenal. 

Several times throughout the production, the queens reclaim the famous saying, “Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived,’ a phrase many people use to remember how each of these women’s relationships with King Henry VIII ended. But the queens refuse to be reduced to this simple rhyme, singing about all of the ways in which they were unfairly treated under a misogynistic monarchy, and simultaneously remixing five-hundred-year-old history with a celebration of 21st-century women’s empowerment.

Although at times the storyline lacked a clear arc, for the most part, this feel-good show leaves the audience wanting more, while simultaneously making a political statement about female empowerment. The script is riddled with clever wordplay, and all six actresses bring the history to life with captivating vocals. Six embodies the importance of representation, both in retelling history and on stage. 

Six is a must-see for anyone who loves history, good music, witty writing, and an overall good time!

This piece also appears in our September 2019 print edition.