I did not expect to enjoy SIX quite this much. I was familiar with its high-concept premise, seen clips popping into my online spaces and just didn’t consider it my thing. I don’t really follow current pop music (I can name, at most, maybe three Beyoncé songs) and I’ve never been intrigued by British royals—from any era whatsoever. The six wives of King Henry VIII coming together for a concert? Yawn.
But then I was in the theatre where the crowd buzz was off-the-charts and there were lights and music and sparkly dancing ladies with their sassy selves and I just found myself so unabashedly into it and now my damn sentence is running on—I’m sorry, not sorry ‘bout what I wrote.
This highly anticipated Toronto production, presented by Mirvish, is an absolute blast! With a garish and kinetic concert aesthetic, it’s not very deep; but damn!, does it ever show you a good time as it riffs on history with a contemporary, pop-culture sensibility. And at a brisk 80 minutes, it never overstays its welcome.
The show’s structure provides a flimsy, though entirely self-aware, narrative contrivance: these ladies have come together to compete for the sob story crown. They take turns giving an abridged account of their marital situation in musical form. Catherine of Aragon (Jaz Robinson), Anne Boleyn (Julia Pulo), Jane Seymour (Maggie Lacasse), Anna of Cleves (Krystal Hernández), Katherine Howard (Elysia Cruz) and Catherine Parr (Lauren Mariasoosay)—each gets their moment of glory, emulating the musical stylings of a variety of current pop divas.
Creators Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow rely heavily on clever juxtapositions. Historical circumstances are filtered through a modern lens, allowing these ladies to rant about their tribulations with modern points of reference. I was fully obsessed with Garbriella Slade’s costumes; their sparkly and iridescent yassification of Tudor garb is dazzling. Scenic (Emma Bailey) and lighting (Tim Deiling) design really sell the concert vibes and provide exhilarating spectacle.
The charismatic, intensely endearing performances and exceptional vocals really drive this thrilling piece of event theatre. Each time a queen had her moment, I’d think: yeah, she’s my favourite! And that just kept happening again and again. Ultimately, they all won me over. Examining the most extreme ends of this delightful array: Pulo’s Anne Boleyn is, perhaps, the funniest and a real firecracker; the most poignant is Lacasse’s empathetic Jane Seymour.
Despite all the mean banter and one-upmanship, when they get into their individual stories, the rest of the women have each other’s backs—quite literally, as back-up performers. Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s choreography for these campy displays of solidarity are tight, efficient and tremendous fun.
As you’d expect, there’s an abundance of Girl Power energy here, which feels both too deliberate and, paradoxically, entirely genuine. This is grounded by plenty of references to the religious and political significance of these women’s place in history, but historical fidelity isn’t really the aim. With Hamilton looming over its shoulder, the major appeal of this musical phenomenon is its enthusiastic embrace of a cultural moment.
Dressing our past up in snazzy outfits and playfully examining it through progressive goggles, this is flamboyant historical cosplay. That’s not a slight. Execution is everything. SIX is masterfully realized and thoroughly exhilarating.