If ever there was a gateway musical that would surely have the current teenage generation saying “that was the first musical I fell in love with”, SIX is very likely to be it.
Loaded with references to what hooked generations of 90s teenagers into the likes of the Spice Girls and the Sugarbabes, Six somehow manages to present a show that despite being obviously designed to appeal to likes of Gen Y, hooks into current Gen Z/Gen Alpha - (yep, it’s a thing, I looked it up) - pop sensibilities.
Six tells the story of Henry VIII’s illustrious six wives – Catherine of Aragon (Phoenix Jackson Mendoza), Anne Boleyn (Kala Gare), Jane Seymour (Loren Hunter), Anna of Cleves (Kiana Daniele), Katherine Howard (Chelsea Dawson) and Catherine Parr (Swing – Shannen Alyce Quan). After a truly stellar opening number (“Ex-Wives”), the women each take turns to tell the story of how they came to be a part of the Tudor legacy in an attempt to win some sort of prize. It’s sort of like Cats but instead of a throng of dancers in Lycra, meowing their way through ballet, it’s women in shiny miniskirts holding microphones doing Beyonce-style choreography.
On opening night, the Australian cast burst onto the stage with enough energy to charge a power station. The choreography (overseen by Cristina D’Agostino) is slick, sharp and sassy. There are two glaring holes in this show – the book and the score. How this show won the Tony Award for Best Score against the likes of Flying Over Sunset and Paradise Square is truly a mystery that perhaps may never be solved (not unlike the results of 2004 and 2013). With it’s basic, cookie-cutter rhymes and punchy-but-simple scoring, the music is catchy, but not revolutionary. Similar is the book – penned like it’s a pantomime for young adults - one step away from a “look behind you” gag.
All of that aside, this cast is fire. And if you’re looking for a night of short (the show is a quick 75 minute, one-act doozy), unapologetic, loud fun - this show is for you. Featuring a cast of six absolute fierce actresses, it would be amiss to not mention the standouts. Kala Gare slays as Anne Boleyn. Blessed to get the most witty sections of the script, her rendition of ‘Don’t Lose Ur Head’ (it hurts to type that) is cute, cheeky and captivating. A perfect rendition of a song that roots itself in the influences of cheesy girl pop.
As Cleves, Kiana Daniele is the absolute coolest person on stage. Her energy is nothing short of infectious. After the lull that is the middle of this show - (‘Heart of Stone’ might be the most underwhelming sappy ballad I’ve ever heard; followed by some weird doof-doof German number that feels like it was ripped straight out of a college self-devised project) – Daniele masters her way through the awkward hip-hop number ‘Get Down’ with flair and finesse. Rounding out the top three is swing Shannen Alyce Quan. Holy heck, bow down to the queen. Quan absolutely dominates the end of this show. Despite some very clunky script that they have to deal with (which goes hand in hand with the clunky writing at the top of their song), Quan's vocals are unmatched, with all of the bells and whistles you want from a pop diva supernova. If you are blessed to witness a performance with Quan present in the cast, count yourself very lucky.
The respect this musical pays to the four on-stage musicians is to be applauded. In true 'rock concert' style, there are multiple moments in the show when the band members are named or given focus and rightfully so. There is not a music stand in sight - a rare, if not unheard of feat for a musical. Their energy is just as electric as the six performers and they deserve every moment of applause at the show's conclusion as much as them.
If you ever have wanted to take your daughter/niece to a show that will make her feel empowered the way The Spice Girls did to my generation when we were kids, this is it. Pray that you don’t get any self-righteous hecklers trying to write themselves into the show (I’m looking at you, Man-In-Stalls-on-the-Right), and just be ready to have a good time. It’s not intelligent theatre, but it sure is a truck-load of fun.
Six is currently touring Australia. Tickets available here.
Photos: James D Morgan