|Divorced Beheaded Live in Concert!|
|Music||Toby Marlow |
|Lyrics||Toby Marlow |
|Book||Toby Marlow |
|Basis||The six wives of King Henry VIII|
|Premiere||2017: Edinburgh Fringe|
2017 Off-West End
2018 UK tour
2019 West End
2019 North American tour
Six is a British musical with book, music, and lyrics by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. The musical is a modern retelling of the lives of the six wives of Henry VIII presented as a pop concert, as the wives take turns singing and telling their story to see who suffered the most due to Henry and should, therefore, become the group's lead singer.
The six Queens introduce themselves performing at a pop concert, telling the audience that the position of the band's lead singer will be the prize for whoever they determine had the worst experience at the hands of their common husband, Henry VIII. Catherine of Aragon recounts how Henry wished to annul their marriage and place her in a nunnery when he began lusting after Anne Boleyn, much to her anger. In turn, Anne mocks Catherine about how Henry wanted her instead but then complains of the infidelity Henry partook in, which led to Anne flirting with other men to make him jealous and ending up beheaded in return. Jane Seymour announces it is her turn to partake in the contest, but is mocked for having had an easy time with Henry. However, while admitting she may have been the only one Henry truly loved, Jane claims that his love was conditional on her having produced a male heir and that she had stood by him despite knowing his many faults.
Themes relating to ideas of female beauty are explored in Hans Holbein's painting studio, where the Queens parody a dating app by presenting a choice of three women for Henry to marry. He chooses Anna of Cleves[a] but soon rejects her and annuls the marriage after seeing her non-resemblance to her portrait. She makes a show of complaining about living in a beautiful palace in Richmond with an enormous fortune and no man to tell her what to do but in reality ends up bragging about it. The Queens question this, and Anna decides to drop out of the competition in favour of returning to her lavish lifestyle. The Queens then belittle Katherine Howard[b] for being "the least relevant Catherine", but she in retaliation mentions flaws in the other Queens' reasons for winning. She then recounts her romantic history, having had many suitors even as a child, and at first relishes in her attractiveness; however, she soon reveals the emotional trauma and abuse she faced in each of these relationships.
As the Queens continue to fight over who is the true winner, Catherine Parr questions the point of the competition which defines them by their connection to Henry rather than as individuals. The Queens, however, do not listen and continue to argue. Frustrated, Parr tells of her separation from her lover and arranged marriage with Henry but mainly acknowledges her accomplishments independent of Henry. The other Queens, realising they have been robbed of their individuality, abandon the contest and declare that they do not need Henry's love to feel validated as people. They use their remaining moments on stage to rewrite their stories, singing together as a group rather than as solo artists and writing their own "happily ever afters."
- "Ex-Wives" – Company
- "Ex-Wives (Reprise/Playoff)" – Company †
- "No Way" – Catherine of Aragon and Company
- "Anne Boleyn (Interlude)" – Company minus Anne Boleyn †
- "Don't Lose Ur Head" – Anne Boleyn and Company
- "Heart of Stone" – Jane Seymour and Company
- "Haus of Holbein" – Company
- "Haus of Holbein (Playoff)" – Company †
- "Get Down" – Anna of Cleves and Company
- "All You Wanna Do" – Katherine Howard and Company
- "I Don't Need Your Love" – Catherine Parr and Company
- "I Don't Need Your Love (Remix)" – Catherine Parr and Company ††
- "Six" – Company
- "Megasix (Encore)" – Company †
† Not included on the Studio Cast Recording.
†† Included as part of "I Don't Need Your Love" on the Studio Cast Recording.
Toby Marlow was selected in late 2016 by Cambridge University Arts Society to write a new musical to be performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival the next summer. The idea for what became Six came to Marlow while studying in his final year at Cambridge University. The initial six wives' concert concept occurred to him in a poetry class, and Marlow decided to get his friend Lucy Moss involved. Despite uncertainties, the pair wrote part of the show while studying for their final exams. Marlow researched by reading Antonia Fraser's "The Six Wives of Henry VIII", while Moss viewed a documentary series, "Six Wives" by Lucy Worsley. At their first writing session together, they watched a 2011 Beyoncé concert and story-telling performance, Live at Roseland: Elements of 4.
The writers thought of various popular singers in fashioning their characters. Catherine of Aragon is modeled off a mixture of Lemonade-era Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, and Jennifer Hudson. Her solo "No Way" incorporates components of real-life Catherine's Blackfriars speech. Anne Boleyn features elements of Avril Lavigne, Miley Cyrus, and Lily Allen. In full-fledged productions, the actor portraying Boleyn typically wears space buns, which signals character roots in Miley Cyrus. Boleyn also sports green to pay homage to "Greensleeves," referring to the myth that states that Henry VIII composed the song for Anne. Marlow and Moss weave in the "Greensleeves" musical motif throughout the score. Additionally, Jane Seymour emulates pop balladeers such as Adele, Sia, Rihanna, and Celine Dion. Seymour's costume design consists of a black and white corset design which alludes to half-timbered houses. Anna of Cleves radiates Nicki Minaj, Beyoncé's "Feeling Myself," Lorde's "Royals," and Iggy Azalea and Charli XCX's "Fancy." Katherine Howard's story is recontextualised through her depiction which parallels young, sexualised pop stars like Britney Spears and Ariana Grande. Katherine's costume design also features a choker, serving as a representation of her being beheaded. Lastly, Catherine Parr's characterisation draws inspiration from Alicia Keys and Emeli Sandé.
Marlow and Moss lamented the lack of gender diversity within the theatre industry, which caused them to focus on themes of queerness while developing the show. They wanted a cast that was predominantly female or non-binary and the story itself to feature queer narratives in a space which normally didn't. Over the course of approximately 10 nonconsecutive days, Marlow and Moss established the foundation for the show.
The world premiere production of Six took place at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017, presented by Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society. Although the production did not win any big awards, it was well-received and sold out of tickets at the festival. Its popularity led to Six being invited back to Edinburgh Fringe the next summer, this time in one of the festival's larger venues.
Professional debut and UK tour (2018)
The Edinburgh production and a subsequent showing back in Cambridge attracted the attention of producers Kenny Wax and Global Musicals, and they gave the show its professional debut on 18 December 2017, performing initially on four Monday nights although this was increased to six performances at the Arts Theatre. A studio recording was released on 13 September 2018, featuring the original Arts Theatre cast.
Six began its first UK tour on 11 July at the Norwich Playhouse, returning to the Edinburgh Fringe on 1 August 2018. Six transferred to the Arts Theatre in the West End with an opening night on 30 August. The production closed on 14 October prior to continuing its UK tour. The UK tour ended on 30 December 2018 in Glasgow.
West End (2019 - Present)
The musical re-opened for an initial 16-week run at the Arts Theatre on 17 January 2019. Directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage with choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, set design by Emma Bailey, and musical supervision by Joe Beighton, the initial run was extended until January 2021. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic the show was forced to take a lengthy hiatus from March 2020.
Under special and unprecedented conditions, the show became one of the first to reopen. It reopened at the Lyric Theatre on 5 December 2020, with plans to return to the Arts Theatre the next year. Due to the ongoing pandemic, audiences were to be socially distanced, capacity limited to 50%, face coverings and temperature checks required, and contact tracing rules in place. In mid-December, all London theatres were again required to close.
North American tour (2019)
Six had its North American premiere at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) in May 2019. Directed by Jamie Armitage and Lucy Moss, the Chicago premiere was produced by Six's London producers with the addition of Broadway producer Kevin McCollum. According to Chris Jones the Chicago production was a likely Broadway tryout. Toward the end of the extended Chicago run, where Six broke box office records for the CST, it was announced the show would go to Broadway in 2020. The production moved to the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts in late August and September 2019, and made its Canadian premiere at Edmonton's Citadel Theatre in November. The production moved to the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, Minnesota, from 29 November through 22 December, prior to its Broadway debut.
Norwegian Cruise Line (2019)
On 6 August 2019, Norwegian Cruise Line announced that they would be showing performances of Six on three of their ships at different times. The shows began in September 2019 on Norwegian's Bliss and will run until 2022.
UK tour (2019–2020)
A second UK tour of Six was officially announced on 5 September 2019. The production opened on 24 October 2019 at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford. The tour was scheduled to run until 25 July 2020, concluding its run at the Birmingham Hippodrome. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down theaters however, a deal was struck between the Society of London Theatre and U.K. actors union Equity; ensuring that West End and touring performers who are currently under contract will be able to continue on those preexisting terms and restart rehearsals or performances with revised dates once the shutdown ends.
Australia and New Zealand (2020)
Six had its Australian premiere at the Sydney Opera House, in January 2020. The production was originally planned to tour to Melbourne's Comedy Theatre in mid 2020 and Adelaide's Her Majesty's Theatre in late 2020 as part of the Adelaide Cabaret Festival but all performances have since been postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Australian production is produced by Louise Withers, Michael Coppel and Linda Bewick. At some point, it is set to open in Wellington, New Zealand's Opera House.
Six began Broadway previews on 13 February 2020 at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. On the day of its scheduled Broadway opening, 12 March 2020, all Broadway theatres were closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Six planned to open when Broadway performances resume. Moss and Armitage again direct, with choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, set design by Emma Bailey, costumes by Gabriella Slade, sound by Paul Gatehouse, lighting by Tim Deiling, and orchestrations by Tom Curran. The original principal cast is the same as the show's 2019 North American tour.
On 4 August 2019, at the final performance of the Chicago premiere, it was announced that Six would return to the city at the Broadway Playhouse. It is scheduled to begin 5 October 2021, after two postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to run to 30 January 2022.
|Original UK tour
West End cast
|Original North American tour|
|Catherine of Aragon||Megan Gilbert||Renée Lamb||Jarnéia Richard-Noel||Adrianna Hicks|
|Anne Boleyn||Ashleigh Weir||Christina Modestou||Millie O'Connell||Andrea Macasaet|
|Jane Seymour||Holly Musgrave||Natalie Paris||Abby Mueller|
|Anna of Cleves||Tilda Wickham||Genesis Lynea||Alexia McIntosh||Brittney Mack|
|Katherine Howard||Annabel Marlow||Aimie Atkinson||Samantha Pauly|
|Catherine Parr||Shimali de Silva||Izuka Hoyle||Maiya Quansah-Breed||Anna Uzele|
Notable West End replacements
In a review of the Arts Theatre production, Dominic Cavendish of The Telegraph called the show "gloriously – persuasively – coherent, confident and inventive". Lyn Gardner of The Guardian wrote, "It may be cloaked in silliness, but Six makes some serious points about female victimhood and survival."
In a review of the Chicago production, Chris Jones of The Chicago Tribune praised the show as "dynamic" and a "blast", with a "sense of humor and spirited radicalism." Marlow and Moss are "gifted comic writers," he said, and he praised the "musical force of the intensely committed and talented actresses" in the Chicago cast. Jones suggests the show could use 10 more minutes of material that gets away from the plot's singing contest conceit, and toward the emotional center of the characters. He also thinks the orchestration of the songs could be more substantial. Jones believes Six has an audience that is ready for it, in part because it gets to a complex historical paradox and treats it with verve, the memories of women in history being tied to the life of a man.
Hedy Weiss of WTTW praises the musical as "sensational", singling out each performer in the Chicago cast. Weiss also thinks the show makes a convincing case for each character, and in addition to praising the writers, notes the "dynamite direction by Moss and Jamie Armitage, and powerhouse music direction by Roberta Duchak" as well as, "Gabriella Slade’s glittering costumes . . . and Tim Deiling’s arena-style lighting". According to Rachel Weinberg of Broadway World, "Six carries out [a] joyful and anachronistic takedown of the patriarchy" through the performances of a "brilliant" cast and a book and score with an inventive and sensational compositional method. Jesse Green of The New York Times wrote that the musical is "pure entertainment", the writing is "wickedly smart", the "terrific singers" of the Chicago cast sell the show "unstintingly", and the production values "befit a splashy North American premiere with Broadway backing."
Original West End production
|2019||Laurence Olivier Award||Best New Musical||Nominated|
|Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical||Aimie Atkinson, Alexia McIntosh, Millie O'Connell, Natalie Paris, Maiya Quansah-Breed and Jarnéia Richard-Noel||Nominated|
|Outstanding Achievement in Music||Joe Beighton, Tom Curran, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss||Nominated|
|Best Theatre Choreographer||Carrie-Anne Ingrouille||Nominated|
|Best Costume Design||Gabriella Slade||Nominated|
|2019||Joseph Jefferson Equity Awards||Outstanding Production–Musical (Large)||Won|
|Outstanding Ensemble Performance in a Musical or Revue||Won|
|Outstanding Director–Musical (Large)||Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lighting Design (Large)||Tim Deiling||Nominated|
|Outstanding Music Direction||Roberta Duchak and Joe Beighton||Won|
Original Broadway production
|2020||Drama League Awards||Outstanding Production of a Musical||Nominated|
|Distinguished Performance Award||Brittney Mack||Nominated|
- In the musical, the character Anna of Cleves goes by the German spelling "Anna" instead of the traditionally anglicised "Anne". This distinguishing spelling leaves "Anne" for Anne Boleyn.
- The character Katherine Howard spells her name with a 'K' in the musical, though the historical figure is usually spelled as Catherine. This distinguishing spelling leaves "Catherine" maintained for the two other wives with that name.
- The show began Broadway preview performances on 13 February 2020. But on 12 March, the day of its scheduled opening, Broadway went dark due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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