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Review: The Queens of SIX The Musical Enchant Their Nashville Audience On Opening Night

"SIX is spectacular entertainment...totally unlike any musical theater offering to come before it..."

SIX (Boleyn Tour)

Make no mistake about it: SIX, the Tony Award-winning musical about six women historically tethered to one another by a common - but not "a commoner" - ex-husband, is raucously funny one moment, remarkably heartfelt the next, with plenty of history punctuating the moments in between. SIX, the high-spirited and energetic take on the lives of Henry VIII's half-dozen wives, is also totally unlike any musical theater offering that has come before it (although we suspect we'll see quite a few rip-offs of its winning ways for years to come that will be, undoubtedly, pretenders to the throne).

Finding inspiration from a coterie of the most notable divas to be found among pop music's contemporary royalty - from the Queen Bey herself to Adele, Rhianna, Shakira and Britney Spears (all of her personalities) and oh, so many more - SIX is spectacular entertainment. Boasting enough theatrical wizardry and showbiz magic to disarm even the most churlish of musical theater traditionalists, audiences of all ages will be found queuing up this week during the Boleyn Tour's eight-performance run at Nashville's Tennessee Performing Arts Center's Andrew Jackson Hall.

After the protracted standing ovation that rewarded the six astonishing queens at the end of their 90-minute opening night performance (my one-man campaign that all new musicals come in at an hour-and-a-half, with no intermission, for maximum enjoyment and dramatic impact, officially launches now), it's easy to see why the company's Music City stand sold out so quickly. And if this review proves to be your only means of connecting to the show this week, please accept my sincere apologies, 'cause SIX is freaking incredible and you really should see it!

SIX (Boleyn Tour)
Zan Berube (center) as Anne Boleyn in SIX the Musical.
- photos by Joan Marcus

SIX is destined to be one of those musicals that remain on constant tour for years to come and, hopefully, it'll be around again in the not-so-distant future. Its appeal - with sisterhood powering its vibrant, instantly accessible storytelling - ensures it will become (if it isn't already) just as popular as Wicked, its girl-power predecessor that returns to Nashville for the fourth time next season. When it comes around again, be sure to snap up your tickets faster than a guillotine can behead a libidinous royal, so you don't miss out on the exhilarating experience that is an audience with the charming, engaging, totally enchanting queens of SIX.

With book, lyrics and music by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss (who won the Tony Award for best original score), the musical is styled as a concert, during which the six eponymous women are each given their moment in the spotlight in a contest to determine which among them suffered the most during her life with Henry and who, therefore, should reign atop the sextet and, presumably, attain the star billing for the aforementioned concert. The staging, along with the visual aesthetics supplied by the eye-popping scenic, lighting and costume designs and the peripatetic rhythms of the choreography and, most especially, the genuinely "pop/rock" pedigree of the musical score - this is not some ersatz rock musical, (as if Rodgers and Hammerstein were still alive and writing modern stuff} but rather music that belongs in this very moment in time, being streamed constantly and infiltrating our ears and our brains via headphones and on radio (do people still listen to the radio?) - you know, the music "the kids" are listening to now.

SIX (Boleyn Tour)
Sydney Parra as Catherine Parr in SIX the Musical.

What is so exciting about, we daresay even "brilliant" about that is the allure of SIX which brings its audiences of all ages, ethnicities and backgrounds together for a shared artistic experience that, quite frankly, helps to build the audience for live theater and guarantees that musical theater (our most beloved of art forms) will thrive long after we've stopped reviewing shows out here in the provinces.

While the SIX queens are each equally sexy, scintillating, captivating and inspiring, they impart enough history in 90 minutes time in this realm to make some professorial types sit up and take notice in theirs. And that, gentle readers, is terrific: you learn something even as you're dancing in the aisles.

It is also particularly compelling - and glorious, damn it! - that there is a wonderfully and richly colorful queer sensibility that permeates SIX which is refreshingly relevant and eye-opening. It isn't necessarily overt (so as not to scare the straight people), but instead it's kind of courageous and even a little subversive here in repressively red Tennessee.

On opening night of the Boleyn tour in the Volunteer State, audiences were treated to the onstage antics and overwhelming talents of four principals from the cast, along with two alternates. Let's face it, that means little to nothing for most members of the audience (the "normal" people, as opposed to the theaterati), especially when these women are so amazingly talented. If not for the insert in the playbill telling us of their status in the cast, we wouldn't even think about it, much less remark on it.

SIX (Boleyn Tour)
Aline Mayagoitia as Katherine Howard.

In fact, the way the show is structured, and the women move with such dexterity and grace - Carrie-Anne Ingrouille's choreography is startlingly precise and deceptively graceful - and sing with such power and control that with the right combination of artists there is simply no way an audience cannot be totally enthralled by what they're witnessing onstage.

Jana Larell Glover is imperious as Catherine of Aragon; Zan Berube is coquettish and cutting as Anne Boleyn; Amina Faye is soul-stirring as Jane Seymour; Cecilia Snow is commanding and cunning as Anne of Cleves; Aline Mayagoitia is deliciously conniving as Katherine Howard; and Sydney Parra is supreme as Catherine Parr. Each woman has stage presence to spare, ensuring that every pair of eyes in the cavernous Jackson Hall is riveted on her when they need to be, and their voices are unparalleled. You would be hard-pressed to choose a favorite from among the six and there's no need to even try because the minute you think you might have divined who the ultimate winner of the contest should be, you'll suffer whiplash when the next one takes her designated spot at center stage.

SIX (Boleyn Tour)
Amina Faye as Jane Seymour in SIX the Musical.

Just as impressive are the four musicians who threaten to very nearly steal the show with their estimable skills. Nashville audiences know and appreciate extraordinary musicians like "The Ladies in Waiting" who accompany the six queens.

Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage marvelously recreate their original Broadway direction for the tour and the production features the stellar sound design by Paul Gatehouse, scenic design by Emma Bailey, lighting by Tim Deiling and the Tony-winning costumes by Gabriella Slade, which gives SIX such a unique look and demeanor.

SIX the Musical. By Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. Directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage. Choreographed by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille. Music supervision by Joe Beighton. At Tennessee Performing Arts Center's Andrew Jackson Hall, Nashville. Through Sunday, February 26. Running time: 90 minutes, with no intermission. For further details, go to

Photo Credit: Joan Marcus

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From This Author - Jeffrey Ellis

Jeffrey Ellis is a Nashville-based writer, editor and critic, who's been covering the performing arts in Tennessee for more than 35 years. In 1989, Ellis and his partner l... (read more about this author)

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