Paul T Davies reviews Six the musical now playing at its new home the Vaudeville Theatre, London. Six the musical receives our rarely awarded 6 star rating!
There’s always a danger when you’re late to party that the best has happened. Finally, my chance to review Six comes when it opens in its “forever theatre”, the Vaudeville. I’ve heard the gossip; I’ve picked up the buzz and the party vibe. But is it suffering from hype, has it been overblown by the fanatic admirers packing out the theatre? No, it hasn’t. It is barnstorming, roof-raising, her-story shaking, loud, proud, and has more sass than entire seasons of any Drag Race. From the opening beat, this show is brilliant, audacious in its attitude, but tells us more about the six wives of Henry VIII than we ever learned in school.
More a concert than a musical, the band of wives, (I still think they should be called Little Six), gather to tell us their side of the story and compete to be crowned the ultimate Queen, assessed on how much they suffered at the hands of Henry and patriarchy. The tone is set by the opening number, Ex-Wives, the costume design by Gabriella Slade is stunning, as are the lights by Tim Delling, the rousing anthem sets the bar high. And it stays there as each queen gets a solo, backs up each other, and the script is littered with catty one-liners, “You must be so exhausted singing all those backing vocals.” The ensemble is so good, there’s no space between them. Jarnéia Richard-Noel a stunning Catherine of Aragon, opens the “competition” with a feistiness that is then picked up by Courtney Bowman’s outstanding Anne Boleyn. She does rather rule the roost with her Lily Allen-inspired attitude and uses her beheading as a tool to slam the other Queens down.
On press night, Collette Guitart played the heartbroken Jane Seymour to great effect, her power ballad Heart of Stone providing the perfect change of tone and pace, then Cherelle Jay raises it again as Anne of Cleves with the superb Techno inspired House of Holbein. There’s a danger when you get to Wives 5 and 6 that the energy will drop, as these are, arguably, the lesser-known queens. No danger here, with Sophie Isaacs, almost stealing the crown as a Britney Spears-inspired Katherine Howard, and Hana Stewart taking things in a different direction as Catherine Parr, the survivor, who doesn’t want to play this game. All backed up by the superb Ladies in Waiting.
If you’ve seen the show, then little will change your mind, this has a strong cult following! I didn’t quite know what to expect, and if you haven’t seen the show, then rush to book it. You won’t quite see anything like it and will delight as history books are rewritten to create the most glittering of confetti. If I could give each queen a star, this review would break records as this website’s second only rarely-awarded six-star review!
Editor’s comment: “I agree with Paul on this one, SIX the musical has maintained a level of excellence and been ground-breaking in bringing new audiences to theatre. From small acorns to re-establishing the British monarchy around the world, the Queens, their Ladies in Waiting, the Court Creatives and their producing White Knights should take a well-deserved bow!”