Share This Article
Six The Musical – Sydney Opera House
Divorced. Beheaded. Died. Divorced. Beheaded. Survived.
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 but mostly the booming sound of the six voices bouncing off every wall in the Opera House’s Studio Theatre.
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 VIII. 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 is particularly impressive. With one of the more difficult roles (playing the wife who actually survived), Makan approaches the role with grace and gusto, connecting remarkably well with the audience. As her character develops throughout the show, she takes 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 fill the space and added a lot of ambiance to the show. The lighting is bedazzling, complementing the performers with all shades of the rainbow as the show progresses. It really is a sight to behold (even if the strobe lighting is borderline blinding at times).
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.
This isn’t just a show that everyone should see. 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.
Image: James D. Morgan