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Six The Musical – Theatre Royal
Divorced. Beheaded. Died. Divorced. Beheaded. Survived.
As Jagged Little Pill closed, Six the Musical moved into the Theatre Royal for a limited month-long season. I first saw Six at the Opera House earlier this year and was very excited to see it again as the return season premiered in a brand-new venue. It’s sometimes (even often) the case that return season lacks something that made the original so great, especially when it is in a new venue. However, the Theatre Royal played the perfect host to the return of Six, as the show actually worked better on a tailor-made theatre stage and the acoustics supported the show extremely well. In fact, I would say that the beautiful Theatre Royal was one of the main reasons why the staging of this return season works so well.
Now, onto the show itself. One by one, the six wives of King Henry VIII are introduced, each one turning to reveal themselves. When the queens first roar in unison, a cacophony of sound erupts around the stadium. The sound is partly audience gasps, partly applause and cheers but mostly the booming sound of the six voices reverberating around the Theatre Royal.
Six is not your typical piece of musical theatre. It starts more like a concert, with the six queens introducing themselves. The wives of King Henry VIII, all competing to decide who had the most dismal life.
Each queen takes turns at introducing their story, with power, passion and gusto, ably supported by an all-female four-piece band and stunning light show. In the end, the queens reclaim their story. They aren’t just the wives of Henry XII. Now, they are the stars of the show. They point out that instead of rewriting HIStory, they are making HERstory.
Stylistically, Six is very much in the vein of its contemporaries in new musical theatre. It’s not a completely sung-through musical like the megamusicals of the 70s and 80s and there’s not a whole lot of plot.
Instead, the structural cohesion relies heavily on the blend between different styles of music and between song, dialogue and Sprechstimme-esque rap. With only six singers and a four-piece band on stage, there’s a lot of skill in making sure that this kind of structure does not fall apart.
This is one of the most admirable things about the musical. For all the pizzazz of the extravagant costumes and the even more extravagant queens, it would be very easy for the substance of the musical to become lost.
Here, the sterling performance of the six queens means that the show both looks good and sounds even better. Connection is never lost and the queens guide the audience safely through the plot, meaning the structure never unravels. The biggest hurdle in this show is passed with flying colours.
While the queens are at their fabulous best when they are singing in tandem, they have some powerful moments on their own as well. Phoenix Jackson Mendoza is outstanding as Aragon, lighting up the stage with fire, passion and incredibly secure vocals. Loren Hunter’s solo mid-way through the show is a stunning contrast, bringing another side of the queens to the fore and leaving the audience holding their breath.
The witty banter between Kala Gare and Chelsea Dawson provides excellent comic relief and Kiana Daniele’s performance as Cleves is both sultry and super powerful. While all the queens were incredible, Vidya Makan was particularly impressive. With one of the more difficult roles (playing the wife who actually survived), Makan approached the role with grace and gusto, connecting remarkably well with the audience. As her character developed throughout the show, she took the audience with her, making them feel just as much a part of the journey.
The band are super tight, often moving in sync with the performers as if they are also members of the cast. With such a small ensemble, the energy of the band really helped to add a lot of ambiance to the show. The lighting was bedazzling, complementing the performers with all shades of the rainbow as the show progressed. The final lighting showcase was spectacular (you have to see it to understand).
Six is a celebration of female musicality and a very powerful one at that. Its message is simple yet strong and empowering. At only 75 minutes in length, it’s short, sharp and wildly entertaining.
As the quintessential musical of the 21st century, both thematically and stylistically, this show has it all and deserves all the praise it has been getting. It’s clear why the cast album is the second most streamed theatre album globally (after Hamilton). It’s unashamedly brash yet it’s backed up with plenty of substance and life. The style of the show means that it feels a lot more accessible to the audience; they are not just watching a show but are part of the show. And the incredible actresses on stage do everything they can to facilitate that connection.
Most importantly, the queens passed the final test: the crowd. The crowd loved every minute of the performance with plenty of audience interaction throughout. The queens were spontaneous, often reacting to little audience quips in the front rows and they really made the audience feel part of the show. The standing ovation received at the end was a testament to the quality of the performance.
This isn’t just a show that everyone should see. The return season is bigger, better and more powerful than ever before – it’s a true must-watch on the Sydney theatre stage. With live theatre back and booming again, Six truly is the vociferous explosion of life, song and dance that we all need.
Tickets are available for Six The Musical here. Six plays at the Theatre Royal until 1 October.