Review: Powerhouse Vocals Energize SIX - THE MUSICAL at Segerstrom Center

More akin to a kick-ass pop diva concert than your average musical, this touring version of the Broadway/West End hit is an entertaining, empowering spectacle

By: Jun. 21, 2023
Review: Powerhouse Vocals Energize SIX - THE MUSICAL at Segerstrom Center
Review: Powerhouse Vocals Energize SIX - THE MUSICAL at Segerstrom Center
SIX The Musical - Aragon National Tour. Photo by Joan Marcus.

If you're a fan of historical period pieces delivered as sassy, cheeky, divalicious rock concerts featuring catchy, cleverly-crafted songs belted by powerful female voices akin to pop music royalty, then the hit Broadway/West End show SIX - THE MUSICAL---now on tour across the country and have stopped for a brief two-week engagement at OC's Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa through June 25, 2023---should definitely be on your must-see list.

Actually, the show itself should be on anyone's must-see list regardless. An all-around entertaining spectacle of heightened histrionics, sparkly costumes, and songs that will burrow into your brain long after the final bows, SIX - THE MUSICAL will definitely satisfy that craving for a hybrid of Broadway-style theatrics and Girrrl Power Concert explosiveness. It is, hands down, one of the most ridiculously high-energy shows I have seen on this stage---that also manages to convey several fully-formed character-driven narratives that have depth, gravitas, and spunk, all packaged in a compact 80-plus-minute, intermission-less stage show.

Despite deviating from the traditional book musical, SIX - THE MUSICAL---featuring a Tony-winning score by its creators Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow---presents a surprisingly absorbing series of stories from six unique, rather compelling personalities, each equipped with individual songs that distinctively vary in genre and mood, but share a palpable connected thread of emotion, insight, and relatable, anthemic empowerment. 

For those new to the material, SIX - THE MUSICAL centers around the six wives of infamous Tudor-era British ruler Henry VIII, who, for one night only, have all returned to our century (and city) to conduct a sort of musicalized pop-rock concert/competition to see who amongst them had it the worst as his wife. The victor, having been determined to have suffered the most, will then be crowned the group's lead singer. 

One by one, each of the wives introduce themselves with the fanfare of a rock star in chronological succession, succinctly summarizing their eventual fates as, in order: "Divorced… Beheaded… Died… Divorced… Beheaded… Survived." 

What's cool right off the bat is that each wife---bursting at the seams with distinct personalities and a specific "Queen-spiration" of an existing pop diva---all come out dressed in sparkly Tudor-wear (designed by Tony winner Gabriella Slade), but bedazzled like pop stars of today, whipping out diamond-ized microphones to belt their first-person account of what it was like to be married to the infamous King.

Review: Powerhouse Vocals Energize SIX - THE MUSICAL at Segerstrom Center
Natalie Paris. Photo by Patrick Gray.

Surrounded by an awesome, on-stage, all-female band led by musical director Valerie Maze and enveloped by a dazzling stage set designed by Emma Bailey and lit by lighting designer Tim Dieling, SIX kicks off with a bang and never really lets up, sprinkled with lots of meta-humor, sassy tea-spilling, and jaw-dropping musical numbers, featuring high-energy choreography from Carrie-Anne Ingrouille.

Up first is Henry VIII's first wife Catherine of Aragon (played by spunky alternate Kelly Denice Taylor on opening night), who was first married to Henry's older brother Arthur who later died. Inspired by defiant Beyoncé and Shakira, Catherine protested Henry's demand for their marriage to be annulled.

Next is the infamously beheaded Anne Boleyn (played by the very funny alternate Erin Ramirez on opening night), whom Henry chased after while still married to Catherine. Eventually Henry would also cheat on Anne, which prompted her to cheat right back. Her sarcasm is explained by her inspirations: Avril Lavigne and Lilly Allen.

Following Anne is the tragic Jane Seymour (played by the role's West End originator Natalie Paris), Henry's third wife who lost her life while giving birth to their son Prince Edward. Her touching song, the show's sole ballad "Heart of Stone" reduced me to a puddle of tears on opening night, describing her love of Henry and missing the family home they would have made together had she not met an unexpected end. Fittingly, her "Queenspirations" are Adele and Sia.

Up next is Anne of Cleaves (played by the scene-stealing Olivia Donalson), who was hand-picked from a selected assortment of women from Germany's exclusive "Haus of Holbein," and was then also later met with a demand for annulment, with Henry humorously citing that she did not match "her profile picture." Her "protests" about her "difficult" life of luxury, unencumbered by male interference, however, is received unfavorably (not that she cared, haha) and seem to disqualify her from having "suffered." Of course, she's inspired by Rihanna and Nicki Minaj.

Henry next wife is Katherine Howard (played by Courtney Mack), dubbed the "least relevant" by her fellow ex-wives, but we soon learn that her youthful beauty led to secret (and multiple) extracurricular activities outside of Henry's marriage, which in turn caused plenty instances of trauma and abuse at the hands of men who used and abused her. The character is tinged with whispers of Ariana Grande and Britney Spears.

Review: Powerhouse Vocals Energize SIX - THE MUSICAL at Segerstrom Center
Olivia Donalson (center). Photo by Joan Marcus.

And finally there's the Alicia Keys-inspired Queen Catherine Parr (played by Gabriela Carrillo), Henry's final wife who had the sole distinction of being the one who survived. When her turn finally arrives at the tail-end of the show, she scolds the others that the contest is utterly ridiculous, pointing out that they have spent an entire concert boasting about their sad commonality of being married to some asshole, and therefore history has robbed them of their unique individuality as women who actually were, well, pretty damn cool in their own right.

So who will come out the victor in this strange, but musically high-energy competition?

Explosive and heart-racing, SIX - THE MUSICAL is an eccentric (in a good way) type of stage musical, where concert-delivered songs truly propel a narrative forward. Though the stories are conveyed in first-person songs sung directly to an audience without the aid of a huge background cast ensemble in a morphing set to flesh out the drama, the commanding presence of these six extraordinary actresses---both as a group and as individual soloists---make the show worth cheering. 

Seriously, these gals can saaaaaannnggg. They easily had our rapt attention the entire night (many have complained to me that the show seemed too short, but for me, it didn't feel like it all).

Historical-based musicals may often feel like classroom lectures on the outset, but since the dawn of HAMILTON and, now, SIX - THE MUSICAL, the evolution of first-person historical narratives presented as a contemporary concert can be worthwhile if done with great panache. In this smart, impressively fashioned show, each character is vividly brought to life with fully-realized backstories and understandable motivations. Whether or not any of it is historically accurate is besides the point. And, yes, you don't need to be pre-schooled in any of the Queens before coming… the stories come in clear, comprehensive, and intriguingly succinct. Plus it's hella fun.

Review: Powerhouse Vocals Energize SIX - THE MUSICAL at Segerstrom Center
Courtney Mack (center). Photo by Patrick Gray.

Of course, it helps that each of the six compelling characters---and the talented, ferociously emotive songstresses that embody them in the show---are given some of the most ear-wormy pop tunes this side of a jukebox musical. With clever wordplay and pop-tastic soundscapes crafted by the team of Moss and Marlow, SIX - THE MUSICAL will easily become one of my go-to Broadway cast albums for years to come.

Don't miss your chance to see this show while it's still here locally with a cast that will blow you away. 

* Follow this reviewer on Instagram / Twitter: @cre8iveMLQ *

-----

Photos courtesy of Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

Performances of SIX - THE MUSICAL (Aragon Tour) continue at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa, CA through June 25, 2023. Tickets can be purchased online at www.SCFTA.org, by phone at 714-556-2787 or in person at the SCFTA box office (open daily at 10 am). Segerstrom Center for the Arts is located at 600 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa. For tickets or more information, visit SCFTA.org. 

***


SPONSORED BY NORTH COAST REP











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