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Review Roundup: SIX THE MUSICAL - What Do the Critics Think of the Broadway-Bound North American Premiere in Chicago?

Review Roundup: SIX THE MUSICAL - What Do the Critics Think of the Broadway-Bound North American Premiere in Chicago?

Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents the North American premiere of SIX THE MUSICAL in The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare, now on stage through June 30, 2019.

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...

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.

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