Review Roundup: SIX THE MUSICAL - What Do the Critics Think of the Broadway-Bound Production at American Rep?
SIX the Musical is now on stage at American Rep! The production began previews Wednesday, August 21 and officially opened this weekend, and closes Friday, September 27, 2019 at the Loeb Drama Center in Cambridge, MA.
The six ex-wives of King Henry VIII headline an electrifying pop-concert spectacle-flipping the narrative on the one-sided story from our history books. After its runaway debut at Edinburgh Festival Fringe and a sold-out UK tour, the musical phenomenon is now taking London by storm with an open-ended run on the West End, now nominated for five Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical.
Directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage, the Chicago Shakespeare production features Adrianna Hicks (Aragon), Andrea Macasaet (Boleyn), Abby Mueller (Seymour), Brittney Mack (Cleves), Samantha Pauly (Howard), and Anna Uzele (Parr). Nicole Kyoung-Mi Lambert and Mallory Maedke have been cast as the Alternate Queens.
Let's see what the critics are saying...
SIX the Musical Cambridge Reviews
Terry Byrne, Boston Globe: What Marlow and Moss's clever frame makes possible is a revealing look at human beings separate from the king they married. Catherine of Aragon's stubborn determination is on display in "No Way"; Anne Boleyn's fun-loving spirit comes through in "Don't Lose Ur Head"; Jane Seymour explains her steadfast love in "Heart of Stone"; Anna of Cleves relishes her role despite her husband's disappointment with her looks in "Get Down"; Katherine Howard reveals how early abuse and her desire to be loved led to her demise in "All You Wanna Do"; and Catherine Parr explains what she sacrificed when the king chose her - and what she accomplished without him (she published books and supported girls' education) - in "I Don't Need Your Love."
Bob Verini, NY Stage Review: For that matter, Boleyn's Avril Lavigne playfulness, or the Ariana Grande teasing of Katherine Howard (Courtney Mack), needn't be part of your cultural repertoire. Each song crafted by Toby Marlow and Moss makes a strong impression on its own, precisely tailored to character and to the overall concert flow, aided in part by the flow of history: With the death in childbirth of #3 Jane Seymour, the scintillating Abby Mueller brings things down in a solo spotlight for the gorgeous ballad "Heart of Stone," worthy of a real Adele set. Then comes #4 Anna of Cleves, the German princess whose disappointing looks led to an awesome divorce settlement, allowing the hilarious Brittney Mack to strut Nicki Minaj-style in "Haus of Holbein," with a debt to SNL's "Sprockets."
Iris Fanger, The Patriot Ledger: The queens are having so much fun in the spotlight. The audience howls in appreciation after every song. It's easy to excuse the absence of any real plot line or theme beyond their sense of sisterhood - and victimhood. The show goes down easy, only 80 minutes long, with no intermission. The performance model is straight from Motown with a 16th century gloss, set by Marlow and Moss and expanded by directors Moss and Jamie Armitage. Carrie-Anne Ingrouille has devised choreography that stems from routines by the Temptations and The Supremes. The glitzy costumes designed by Gabriella Slade help to establish the sense of the court with their period sleeves and bodices, updated to the 21st century by shortening the skirts, baring midriffs and adding silver-spangled boots.
Debbie Foreman, Cape Cod Times: Adrianna Hicks, as Catherine of Aragon, boldly sets out her case, in a rapid-fire song and dance. Andrea Macasaet is a sexy, wildly funny Anne Boleyn. The tempo stills when as third wife, Jane Seymour, Abby Mueller sings a soulful ballad. Brittney Mack heats up the stage again as poor Anna of Cleves. If Henry were around again, it's likely he wouldn't have rejected her this time. Courtney Mack charms as Katherine Howard singing of her love affair before she married Henry. Then she breaks out in exhilarating song and dance to finish her story. It's not surprising that Catherine Parr survived Henry when you watch Anna Uzele's sparkling portrayal.
Jed Gottlieb, Boston Herald: As the packed 80-minute show transitions between Brittney Mack's Anna of Cleves number - a straight banger celebrating crafty gold digging with the charisma, bombast and fury of a Nicki Minaj chart-topper - into Courtney Mack's riff on pop princess naivete as Katherine Howard (the second consort executed by the king), the weight of these women's experiences crush the humor. As Howard sings about her molestation at age 13 and increasingly ugly marriage to Henry, which began when she was 16 or 17 and he was 49, the fun and fabulousness of "Six" fades into truth: Even as queens, these women faced unspeakable abuses.
Lara McCallister, Theatre Talk Boston: SIX is a musical with tenacity, spunk, and charm. No wonder this show is next to hit the Broadway scene at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in February 2020. With the feeling of a pop concert, the structure of a musical, and the content of a college history lecture, the SIX queendom stands out as a show not to miss.
SIX the Musical Chicago Reviews
Rachel Weinberg, BroadwayWorld: While individually these six performers are outstanding, they're also magnificent together. The score calls upon the six to deliver three group numbers in which they must finesse complex harmonies: the opening number "Ex-Wives," the satirical "Haus of Holbein," and the show's eponymous finale. Hicks, Macasaet, Mueller, Mack, Pauly, and Uzele sound delightful together, and they successfully blend their voices when needed. These performers also provide backing vocals for one another in their individual numbers, which is also a subtle way of underscoring the show's message of female empowerment.
Jesse Green, The New York Times: It's a tidy concept, but tidy concepts are often undermined by a lack of theatrical stamina. Not so here. Directed by Ms. Moss and Jamie Armitage, "Six" delivers pure entertainment throughout its headlong 80 minutes. The wickedly smart lyrics are well set on tunes that are both catchy and meaty; the cast of terrific singers sells them unstintingly, straight to the joyful finale. And the production values - especially Tim Deiling's arena-rock lighting - befit a splashy North American premiere with Broadway backing.
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: It brings up the uncomfortable question of whether beheadings and other forms of abuse can ever be funny, even when there are centuries of chronological remove. Marlow and Moss - gifted comic writers - are smart enough to bring up that issue themselves toward the end, but the show still would be better if it roamed further from its own device and deeper into the actual stories of the women themselves (as does "Hamilton"), retaining the anachronistic vivacity. The sniping competitiveness of the women - which eventually starts to jar - also works against the feminist theme of the show. The real enemy here is Henry, ground zero of the patriarchy, you might say, and if the creators firm that up and lose some of the my-beheading-was-worse-than-yours stuff, they'll have even more of a crowd-pleaser. The show is quippy, which is fine, but also too a-feared of serious and emotional moments. Actually, they're needed here, along with another 10 minutes of material. And they don't have to interrupt the fun; au contraire, they will only deepen our engagement.
Hedy Weiss, WTTW: As it turns out, they are very much forces to reckon with, with each performing a soliloquy-in-song (with exceptionally clever lyrics) that ideally fits their nature and their history with Henry. True, they tend to portray themselves as angry victims of the king's whims, but in their latter-day incarnation they can unquestionably hold their own. And not only do they discover that in unity there is power, but they come to realize that in many ways time has rendered them more famous and powerful than their husband.
Catey Sullivan, Chicago Sun-Times: Moss, Marlow and Armitage don't try to spin anything. Instead, they give the all-woman cast (which includes an onstage band of "ladies in waiting") a powerhouse score that offers everyone on stage a shot at mastering her own story. "Six" doesn't turn away from trauma, brutality and sorrow, but the six women on stage persist in breaking free nevertheless. "Six" is a party that celebrates the wives and lays bare the barbaric way they were used.
Lisa Trifone, Third Coast Review: Six gets all kinds of points for flashy production value and fantastic casting; I'd listen to these women sing the phone book. There are moments to love throughout, and surely no one will walk out of the theater being anything less than entertained, right down to the Joseph-like medley at curtain call. But audiences looking to be wowed by a narrative that upends well-worn historical tropes, one that smartly pairs sharp lyrics with memorable melodies may leave a bit disappointed. The likes of Hamilton have set a high bar for shows that come after it, and with this effort at least, Marlow and Moss are no Miranda.
Amanda Finn, New City Stage: Unlike a conventional musical, "Six" doesn't have a linear plot. The six wives of Henry VIII challenge themselves to a sing-off. Or an anguish-off, of sorts. They must convince the audience that their plight with the King was worse than the others. And between the two beheaded, two divorced, one dead and one surviving, there is more tea to spill than even the juiciest soap opera. "Grey's Anatomy" has nothing on this drama.