Breaking News

SIX musical at the Fox theater review

– By Cate Marquis –

The hit Broadway musical “Six the Musical” brought the six wives of Henry the Eighth to the Fabulous Fox Theater, or at least a pop star version of them, in a very entertaining production, Jan. 24 though Feb. 5. With diverse casting, each of the wives of King Henry VIII was represented as a specific pop star (or two), as they tell their story and competed in a sing-off, to see who had the worse marriage to the king. It may be good to be the king but it sure wasn’t great to be his queen.

The queens start the show with a rhyme familiar to all British schoolchildren: “Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived,” a way to remember the fates of the six wives in sequence. Those wives are Catherine of Aragon (Cecilia Snow on opening night, filling in for Gerianne Pérez), Anne Boleyn (Zan Berube), Jane Seymour (Amina Faye), Anna of Cleves (Terica Marie), Katherine Howard (Aline Mayagoitia), and Catherine Parr (Sydney Parra).

History buffs, and fans of “Hamilton,” may be expecting a little more history – or “her story” as the musical has it – in “Six” than they actually get, but the show sure does deliver on the entertainment. It is a good idea to read the program notes, which does give a little history on each, or even do a bit more reading before, as the show does make some inside jokes, like referencing the myth that Anne Boleyn had a sixth finger on one hand (she didn’t). The historical references add to the fun, if you know some history, but they are mostly reference myths and gossip about each queen, since surprisingly little is actually known about them, given the lowly status of women at that time – women were considered property and often even the year they were born wasn’t recorded. The historical status of even these women in that era is part of the show’s point, contrasted with the #Me Too present, but the production’s main focus isn’t history as much as entertaining and engaging the audience.

Luckily, the helpful program helps with the history and also clues you into the musical inspiration for each queen. Humorous (sometimes dark humor), tuneful and with a bit of a “girl power” feminist twist, the six wives each sing their anthem or ballad. The show runs a crisp, non-stop 80 minutes with no intermission. which is just the right length.

The queens are backed by an on-stage all female band, “the Ladies-in-Waiting” – Katie Coleman on keyboard (and also conductor), Sterlyn Termine on bass, Liz Faure on guitar and Caroline Moore on drums. Staging is simple but glittery, with the queens in front and the band on a raised area on either side, with central steps as a performance focal point. Of course there is dancing as well as singing, like any pop concert, and the queens serve as back-up singers and dancers as each other, as she gets her showcase. Cecilia Snow, who played Catherine of Aragon on opening night, usually serves as dance captain.

The show kicks off with all six Queens, dressed in colorful sparkly costumes that mix elements of 16th century finery and pop diva pizzazz, singing “Ex-Wives,” which introduces the wives, that rhyme about their fates, and lays the groundwork for the idea of a contest to see who had it worse. It is hard to top being beheaded for bad marriage but there are two of those. Actually two of them came out pretty well, the one who survived, Catherine Parr, and second one divorced, Anna of Cleves, who extracted a good settlement.

The queens tell their stories in the order they married King Henry. First wife Catherine of Aragon (Cecilia Snow), as she tells us, was originally sent from Spain as a teenager, intended as the bride for Henry’s older brother Arthur, but when the brother died, she was married to Henry instead. She had been Henry’s wife for years, giving birth to daughter Mary and suffering several miscarriages, when the king decided to seek a divorce to marry the younger Anne Boleyn, in hopes of fathering a male heir. Her feelings about that are summed up in “No Way,” a fiery Beyonce and Shakira-influenced production number, which is one of the show’s best songs as well as an energetic kick-off.

Zan Berube as Anne Boleyn (center) in The North American Tour Boleyn Company of SIX. Photo by Joan Marcus, Courtesy of the Fabulous Fox Theater.

But their contest is not about who has the best song, but who had the worst marriage. Next up Anne Boleyn, the most famous wife, the one who sparked the split from the Catholic Church when the divorce wasn’t granted which launched the Protestant Church of England. Dressed in green, Zan Berube plays Anne Boleyn in the style of Avril Lavigne and Lily Allen for her satiric song “Don’t Lose Ur Head.” Anne struts and teases, as she shows us she is an ambitious woman who knows what she wants. If only she had had a son instead of giving birth to the future Queen Elizabeth I, one of Britain’s greatest rulers. Hey, wait a minute…that’s bad? But she still lost her head, as she complains.

The queens do a lot of teasing each other, and when the next queen, the pious Jane Seymour, makes the claim to be “the wife Henry really loved,” it prompts eye-rolling and groans from the others. Jane did give Henry that son he wanted, Edward, but she died shortly after from complications, so her song, “Heart of Stone,” is a lament about not being around to raise her son, done in the style of Adele and Sia.

Number four is actually one of two of the wives came out pretty well – Anne of Cleves (styled Anna in the show, as she would have called herself in her native German). Anna of Cleves was a German princess, the only wife who was not an English woman Henry had met, and whom he married long distance based on her portrait by Hans Holbein. The queens all sing a German tech-flavored number “Haus of Holbein,” referencing that Hans Holbein portrait the Henry used in deciding to marry Anna but then claimed mis-represented her looks. Terica Marie’s clever Anna, who did not much like Henry either when she met him, gives us a run-down of how she extracted lands, money and a title in her divorce, in her Nick Minaj – Rihanna styled “Get Down.”

Aline Mayagoitia’s willowy teen-aged queen Katherine Howard, uses pop princess style that echoes Brittany Spears and Ariana Grande, as she tells us her sad #MeToo tale of being targeted by sexually abusive men (probably the most tragic, given she was the other one beheaded), in her number “All You Wanna Do,” framed as a “I thought he was different” lament.

Catherine Parr was the last queen, the one who survived King Henry, and Sydney Parra gives her a Alicia Keys – Emeli Sande vibe in her song “I Don’t Need Your Love,” as the queen describes going on to meaningful life after Henry, writing a book and marrying her true love.

For the finale, all six wives come together at the end to determine the winner, with the showstopper “Six,” but then they remind us that major reason why we remember Henry the Eighth now is them – his six wives.

Delightfully funny and entertaining with a little thought-provoking feminist twist, “Six” is on stage at the Fabulous Fox from Jan. 24 through Feb. 5.

© Cate Marquis