SIX! MUSICAL BURST AND DAZZLE at the Straz Center For The Performing Arts
“Are you ready to choose your leading lady…?”
“Are you ready for a happily ever after royal?”
On Tuesday night, a packed house at Carol Morsani Hall in Tampa, Florida’s Straz Center for the Performing Arts awaited ahead of the Broadway season opener. SIX to start. I myself remained relatively neutral about the show, and blindly hearing only one or two songs, I looked forward to the performance.
As the curtain speech began, the anticipation grew stronger, and it was announced, “The show will start in just under SIX minutes.”
With the book, music and lyrics by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, SIX is a modern account of the lives of the six wives of Henry VIII. The show is presented in a pop concert style, with each performer singing about their time with Henry and battling to see who has suffered the most and can become the band’s lead singer. So don’t make the plot too complicated, SIX is a high-energy show that makes for a great time from start to finish.
The women who make up society SIX blast through the roof of Morsani Hall with unparalleled vocal power. Henry VIII’s wives, as we learn in the story and also via the timeline found in the program of the performance, are Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine parr. six women,Divorced, beheaded, dead, survivor” and the six women vying for lead vocals in a group of “Ex Wives.” Lasting 75 minutes without intermission SIX turns out to be the one everyone came to see. Which queen will you choose to lead the group?
In “No Way”, Catherine of Aragon revisits the time when Henry wanted to put her in a convent, while coveting Anne Boleyn. Anne then turns around and tells Catherine that Henry wanted her all the time, but following some infidelity on Henry’s part, Anne started flirting with other men, which resulted in her beheading, “Don’t don’t lose your mind.”
“I mean, I guess he really liked my face…” (Anne Boleyn)
Jane Seymour begins to sing about her time with Henry, in “Heart of Stone”, but mocks that she had a simpler time with Henry. However, this only concerned the stipulation that she would provide him with a male heir to the throne.
” No matter my faults or my fears, I stayed by his side…” (Jane Seymour)
The queens then sing “Haus of Holbein”, which parodies a dating app, causing Henry to choose Anna of Cleves, but he leaves her based on the fact that she doesn’t look like his portrayal.
The use of lighting throughout the show was exceptional…but especially the Black Light moments in “Haus of Holbein”, made the number stand out among the rest.
Anna of Cleves continues to sing about her time in an empty palace with a huge fortune, as she sings “Get Down”.
“I’m the queen of the castle… come down you rascal…” (Anne of Cleves)
Next, Katherine Howard sings about her many suitors, emotional trauma, and abuse in “All You Wanna Do.” Catherine Parr closes the duels of the queens by recounting her separation from her one true love via an arranged marriage with Henry. Yet she turns around and brags about all her accomplishments after him while singing “I Don’t Need Your Love”.
The Queens then band together and sing a mashup of all the songs previously sung in the show, and even allow the audience to record the “MegaSix”.
Denouncing Henry’s need for love, the queens accept each other as individuals, and true female emancipation fills the room.
The six performers making up the Reines de SIX are top notch and the best of the best.
Like Aragon, Khaila Wilcoxon channels her inner Beyonce and gives us the scorned woman. As Anne Boleyn, Storm Lever channels her inner Lily Allen into her solo act. Of all the queens personally, her number was the one I cared the least about. Her performance was great, but the song itself lacked something.
Like Jane Seymour, Jasmine Forsberg could sing anything. His vocal power is unmatched here, and even a few times I gasped audibly, “Wow.” Channeling her inner Adele and Sia, she knocked it out of the park. A truly sensational and stunning ride, which I could listen to again and again. If there was a queen of all queens, it would be her.
As Anna of Cleves, Olivia Donaldson channels her inner Nicki Minaj and Rihanna, mixed in with a little Lizzo. Of all the numbers on the show, hers stuck in my mind even the next day. I found myself singing “I’m the queen of the castle, come down you rascal…” A costume change/reveal showed true empowerment of her character and the audience cheered.
As Katherine Howard, Didi Romero channeled her inner Ariana Grande and Britney Spears. Her vibrant pink hair set her apart from the crowd and her stage presence matched her character’s wills.
Finally, as Catherine Parr, Gabriela Carrillo channeled her inner Alicia Keys/Emeli Sande and dominated the scene in every aspect. She stood out among the others as the only one wearing pants. Truly an exceptional singer, and for me the glue that holds everyone together.
The choreography is meant to resemble a pop girl group. Moves in sync with others, each having distinct moments to stand out among the group. Carrie-Anne Ingrouille provided us with choreography that we could reference girl groups of the past, but she also kept it feeling fresh and new, and the ladies of SIX worked every inch of the scene.
With musical supervision by Joe Beighton and music led by the fabulous “Ladies in Waiting”, Jo Ann Daugherty, Janetta Goines, Rose Laguana, Paige Durr and Valerie Maze, every vocal passage and every note was exceptional from start to finish.
Under the direction of Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage, SIX is the ticket of the season and the talk of the town. Do yourself a favor and find time to visit SIX and the stories of the lives these “ex-wives” led. Bring your best friend, your girlfriend or the love of your life and go to the Straz Center until November 6th. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.strazcenter.org, or by phone at the Straz Center box office. The queens are waiting for you and invite you to spend an evening in Queendom with them, and man, they have a story to tell.
PHOTO CREDIT: JOAN MARCUS