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BWW Album Review: SIX: LIVE ON OPENING NIGHT Is a Royal Rush of Joy

The cast album captures the production's long-awaited return to Broadway.

BWW Album Review: SIX: LIVE ON OPENING NIGHT Is a Royal Rush of Joy

Few returns to Broadway have been quite as joyous as the new musical Six, whose planned opening night in March 2020 was cancelled just hours before curtain as Broadway shut down. Fortunately, these belting, quipping queens are back in full force, and the live cast recording, recorded on their (new) opening night, captures the unique energy that has turned Six from quirky online phenom to Broadway hit.

Unlike the previous studio recording that launched Six's story, Six: Live on Opening Night also includes a handful of the transitional dialogue snippets that connect the individual songs. It offers a little more of a window into the cheeky humor of the show, but really, the cursory "story" matters little - it's all about the songs. Things get off to a vibrant start with the snappy opening "Ex-Wives." If the energy from the performers themselves wasn't enough, the energy from the audience is equally palpable.

Also worth noting: for anyone concerned that the "live" recording of the album might overshadow the performances or grow frustrating, never fear. The sound balance is great, letting the performers shine while capturing the audience energy at just the right level.

The first of the queens to take the spotlight is Adrianna Hicks as Catherine of Aragon, dignified and self-assured with "No Way." With her Beyoncé-esque anthem, calling out the ultimate philandering husband, Henry VIII, she gets the ball rolling with confidence.

For casual Tudor fans, the story that's probably most familiar in pop culture is the ill-fated marriage between Henry and his second wife, Anne Boleyn. That means that Andrea Macasaet has one of the trickiest demands in the show, playing a version of the one character that audiences are most likely to be familiar with. While her bouncy, Lily Allen meets Avril Lavigne pop song "Don't Lose Ur Head" is a ton of fun, it pales a bit in comparison to some of the others. That's not a criticism of Macasaet, who puts her own fabulous spin on the utterly catchy number (seriously - good luck getting it out of your head). It's just that, for most of the characters, the songs highlight a deeper aspect that goes against the archetypes we think of for each of them. Boleyn, however, is handed a song that only reinforces her existing popular image: flighty, flirty, and scheming.

On the flip side is Abby Mueller as Jane Seymour, the queen whose real history and personality is probably the least well-known. A combination of Seymour's reportedly mild personality, precarious position, and status as the only of Henry VIII's wives to have a surviving son have left her something of a historical mystery, which is rich material to explore. Here, Mueller shines on the torch song "Heart of Stone." With a touch of Adele sounds, the ballad not only shows off Mueller's excellent vocals, but offers a counterpoint to the other queens: Seymour's regret is that she genuinely wanted a life with a husband and children who loved her, and she didn't get to experience that.

Once we're past the halfway point (and the catchy, satirical "Haus of Holbein"), it's time for the two biggest scene-stealers of the show. First up is Brittney Mack as Anna of Cleves, the queen history remembers as being the "ugly" one. With the Rihanna-inspired "Get Down," Mack is brash, bold, joyful, and completely charming. As she gleefully sings about the joys of her independent life, she's equal parts playful and empowered. It's impossible not to get swept along with her infectious enthusiasm and powerful voice.

If Cleves's number finds its power in its celebratory joy, her successor's power comes from more devastating emotions. As portrayed by Samantha Pauly, Katherine Howard at first seems to fit right into the historical stereotype she's been assigned: the promiscuous, party-girl teenage queen. With pop princess flair and Ariana Grande styling, she kicks off "All You Wanna Do" with verses about her precocious flirtations with the men around her. As the song progresses, though, the flirty persona falls away and the truth is revealed: a too-young woman taught from a young age that her only worth was in her sexuality and attention from much-older men. Evoking exploited pop stars like Britney Spears, Pauly hits every note, from the perky enthusiasm of early verses to the voice-cracking, falling-apart devastation of the end.

As we near the end, it's Anna Uzele as Catherine Parr ("the one who survived") who offers up the thesis of the whole show. On the surface, the Alicia Keys-esque "I Don't Need Your Love" follows Catherine as she writes a farewell letter to the man she really loves and muses on the lack of love she'll have in her marriage with Henry. What it quickly turns into, however, is a realization that none of the queens need to be defined by the love (or lack thereof) from a man who used and trashed all of them.

That might sound like a cheesy, simplistic sentiment on paper, especially when it's expanded upon in the upbeat, empowerment-anthem finale "Six." The magic of Six, though, is that it makes you feel its message deep down. There's something to be said for the idea of reclaiming a bit of history, reframing it to focus on fascinating women and their stories rather than the men who overshadowed them in life. And when it's as much fun as Six, who could complain?

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