It’s hard to believe it’s been four years since Six made its world premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. During that time the musical has gone from strength to strength, from a hugely successful run at London’s Arts Theatre and UK tour, to making its mark across the pond, opening in both Australia and on Broadway. Not bad for what started out as a university project. And now this poptastic show about the wives of King Henry VIII has moved to its new London home, the Vaudeville Theatre, where it’s set to continue entertaining audiences for the foreseeable future.
While many of us know the story of Henry VIII and his determined (and bloodthirsty) quest to have a son, not many of us know a great deal about his wives – Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr – other than their fate. Six takes the attention away from the King and focuses on the six Queens, providing them with a voice (and a microphone) to share their stories. The brainchild of Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, Six takes the form of a musical pop concert. Over the course of 80 minutes each Queen takes centre stage to perform a song detailing everything they endured at the hands of Henry, in a bid to win the prize of the person who has suffered the most. But Six isn’t a downhearted, sombre show, and as the competition progresses the Queens soon discover they have a lot more in common than first thought, and that they’re more than simply ex-wives.
Six is an absolute treat from start to finish, with strong direction from Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage to ensure this is a show you never want to end. The musical feels right at home in the Vaudeville and Emma Bailey’s set coupled with Tim Deiling’s bold lighting looks beautiful. The soundtrack wouldn’t sound out of place in the UK Top 40 charts, with songs inspired by the likes of Beyonce, Adele, Little Mix and Rhianna all performed impeccably by the strong cast, accompanied by their ‘ladies in waiting’ – the band led by Lauren Hopkinson. It’s a real treat for the ears with the likes of infectiously catchy tongue-in-cheek number ‘Don’t Lose Your Head’ performed by – you’ve guessed it – Anne Boleyn; the empowering – and hilarious – ‘Get Down’ sung by Anna of Cleves, who was in many ways the luckiest wife; and the German electro pop number ‘Haus of Holbein’ which is one of the most entertaining moments of the whole show. Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s choreography is even more impressive in this latest version of the musical, particularly during Katherine Howard’s solo number ‘All You Wanna Do’. Although an incredibly catchy dance number on the surface, the choreography for this song has been tweaked to show the Queen’s suffering at the hands of the men she encountered, and is an incredibly powerful part of the show.
On the evening of this review the cast included Jarnéia Richard-Noel as Catherine of Aragon, Courtney Bowman as Anne Boleyn, Collette Guitart as Jane Seymour, Cherelle Jay as Anna of Cleves, Sophie Isaacs as Katherine Howard and Hana Stewart as Catherine Parr. Jarnéia Richard-Noel has played Catherine of Aragon since 2018 and never fails to impress with her pitch-perfect vocals. Courtney Bowman gets the biggest laughs of the show with her razor sharp comic timing and is a real joy to watch. She’s cheeky and playful as Anne Boleyn and delivers her (often hilarious) lines with the perfect amount of sarcasm. Collette Guitart captures the hearts of the audience as she slows things down with her beautiful performance of ‘Heart of Stone’; while Cherelle Jay is a breath of fresh air as Anna of Cleves, living her best life away from controlling men, her iconic rendition of ‘Get Down’ one of the show’s highlights. Sophie Isaacs captures Katherine Howard’s vulnerable side well which only serves to make ‘All You Wanna Do’ all the more effecting, while her vocals also impress. Hana Stewart is incredible as more mature and reflective Catherine Parr, refusing to engage in the bickering. Her vocals are simply stunning, and her top note at the end of ‘I Don’t Need Your Love’ is out of this world. All six look stunning in Gabriella Slade’s regal costumes which are given a modern twist, with each Queen having their own iconic style. Their harmonies are divine, and what’s so great to see is that each cast member seems to be having an absolute ball on stage.
Since it first premiered Six has gained an army of fans and it’s easy to see why with its witty script, catchy songs and empowering message of ‘girl power’. Fresh, fun and an absolute joy to watch, Six is an incredibly entertaining history lesson and deserves its place in London’s West End. Long may it reign.
To book tickets visit https://www.nimaxtheatres.com/shows/six-vaudeville/
Photo credit: Pamela Raith