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SIX the musical at the American Repertory Theater

Sunday 31 May 2020

Refreshing and fun, this concert-like musical is full of historical references with a pop flair.

SIX the musical at the American Repertory Theater

I first heard about SIX when I was looking for shows to see in the West End. Though I did not choose to see the West End production, I was pleasantly surprised to see that there would be an American version of SIX with a production near my town in Massachusetts. By the time I went to buy tickets the show was sold out, but I was lucky enough to snag a last-minute ticket by showing up at the box office. It was my first time at Harvard’s American Repertory Theater, and it brought me back to one of my college projects for my Freshman Seminar entitled Music and Theater. The venue was intimate, and I was seated in the third row.

SIX shares the stories of the six wives of Henry VIII. The way in which it provided me with a mini history lesson was reminiscent of Hamilton. It fused pop and showtunes, and white historical figures were represented by a pretty diverse cast. The show starts out with the SIX wives introducing themselves and their backstory with the song Ex-Wives. The song gets right to the point in telling the audience the fate of each wife. I felt the powerful feminist tone of the song, but I would say that the synth sound and the contrast of death and a pop competition did feel a bit cheesy. Overall though I enjoyed the intro and it set up a fun and engaging tone.

One unique aspect of the show is that each wife is based on a famous pop star and the first one up was a Beyoncé/Shakira inspired wife (Catherine of Aragon) singing No Way. To me this song was fine, but was quickly upstaged by the high intensity song Don’t Lose Ur Head sung by the second wife (Anne Boleyn). This was an Avril Lavigne/Lady Gaga inspired song, with a fun story, millennial inspired lyrics, and a very catchy tune. There the tempo changes add to the drama and the irony of the title of the song and the fate of the second wife created a standout song and a great performance. Next came wife three (Jane Seymour) singing Heart of Stone. Jane Seymour’s character was Adele/Sia inspired. Perhaps it is because I don’t care much for Adele, but I found this to be the weakest song of the bunch. I found the song itself to be quite dreary and simple with nothing to set it apart. When listening to the cast album I always skip this song.

Next up, the wives switched characters to play Germans for the song Haus of Holbein. The song was fun and crazy in person with a play on 16th century Tinder, and some interesting theatrical, AV, and costume choices. I can’t say it’s my favorite song, but it is quite different from the others. It provides a refreshing ensemble number and the change of pace is exciting for the audience. I would definitely say this song was made more for the stage than for listening to the soundtrack.

Then came wife number four (Anne of Cleves) singing the song Get Down. This wife was Nicki Minaj/Rihanna inspired and I absolutely loved it. The lyrics were very entertaining in comparing a hand painted portrait to a profile picture, and this wife bragging about receiving a sizable fortune from the divorce. What really set this song apart though was the joy the actress had while she was performing. I could tell she was having the time of her life on stage, and she put so much energy into her performance.

Wife five (Katherine Howard) came next with the song All You Wanna Do with a Brittany Spears/Ariana Grande inspired character. The song grew on me with its repetitive refrain giving us a glimpse into the truly sad circumstances of the exploitative men in her life with Henry VIII eventually beheading her.

Last was wife six (Catherine Parr), the Alicia Keys/Emeli Sandé inspired wife. The song I Don’t Need Your Love spoke to how the last wife was almost forced into marriage and they stayed together until he died, but turned into an anthem of how each wife was “taking back control” of her own narrative. The soul and girl power of this song were a great segue to the last song.

The last song was a cute way to wrap up the show with each wife singing her own story free of history. I left the show wanting to see it again. It was short, fun, and had a great message of female empowerment that brought together the six wives.