'Six' Broadway review - a ‘one of a kind, no category’ musical

  • Our critic's rating:
    Date:
    October 4, 2021
    Review by:

    There is nothing I enjoy more than discovering a show and then going back to see it again (and again) with someone who has never seen it before. As someone who goes to the theatre for work, I view every night as a treasure hunt for the next theatrical crown jewel, and I love revisiting these gems time and again with friends and family. 

    So when I saw a little show called Six for the first time in London’s West End in 2019, I couldn’t wait to evangelize about it and take everyone I know. When the show came to the U.S. for a North American tour before heading to Broadway, I took my brother and sister-in-law to the show at American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Mass. And when the show was preparing for its March 2020 Broadway bow, I took a good friend, dancing in the aisles at the last show I saw before the pandemic shutdown. 

    Now, the production is the first new musical to return to Broadway since theatres closed, and in the intervening time, I’ve actually moved to London, where I was at the musical’s first performance back in the West End in May 2021. So being back in New York for Broadway’s reopening and seeing Six (for the sixth time, no less) feels like a seminal moment for the show. 

    This time, I also took a good friend, who also had never seen the show or heard any of the music. Watching her experience pure musical theatre elation for a pop-packed 75 minutes was greater than any returning-to-theatre joy I could have imagined. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll dance. It’s everything a theatre experience should be and more. 

    So what is Six, you might ask, oh uninitiated one? The show is essentially a pop concert featuring the six wives of Henry VIII belting and riffing about all the “bullsh*t” they had to put up with from the king. Featuring vocal stylings in the vein of Nicki Minaj, Adele, Ariana Grande, Beyoncé, and more, the performers deliver a “histo-remix,” in a concise and endlessly catchy concert-style show that is part singing competition, part history lesson. 

    Now, you don’t need me to tell you how popular the music is, as the U.K. cast recording has been streamed over 100 million times, and writers Toby Moss and Lucy Marlow (also the show’s co-director with Jamie Armitage) have scored a deal to write pop music. Not bad for two students at Cambridge who came up with this show in school and premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe. 

    The queendom has now gone global, and the Broadway production is bigger, bolder, and beltier than any Six I’ve seen yet. From new riffs to surprise costume reveals, every element has been leveled up for New York, leaving no stone unturned. Adrianna Hicks (Catherine of Aragon), Andrea Macasaet (Anne Boleyn), Abby Mueller (Jane Seymour), Brittney Mack (Anna of Cleves), Samantha Pauly (Katherine Howard), and Anna Uzele (Catherine Parr) form a tight ensemble, fulfilling all your girl group dreams and your next karaoke night. 

    The show itself is a retro-mashup with Gabrielle Slade’s bedazzled costumes featuring Reformation-inspired silhouettes; Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s choreography showcases Tudor-meets-pop moves; and Emma Bailey’s scenery and Tim Deiling’s lighting feels like what a royal ballroom might look like in a techno disco. 

    Ultimately, the queens’ own stories of overcoming struggles and the show’s circuitous journey to Broadway are also beacons for the power of positivity, perseverance, and coming together in times of struggle. Just like these six “ex-wives,” we’ve all had it rough for the past year and a half, and the queens are here to bring in a new regime. Long may they reign. 

    Six is playing on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.