Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived – we all remember learning about Henry VIII at GCSE, from the Church of England to the dissolution of the monasteries. But of course, the historical fact that sticks in everyone’s mind about the tyrannical monarch was that he had a ‘way’ with women, wedding not one, but six wives.
Well, those powerhouse Queens have formed a pop mega-group and they’re divorced, beheaded, LIVE at the Regent Theatre for one week only as viral musical Six takes over the stage.
The international smash hit musical is still in its infancy, premiering in 2017, but from West End to Broadway, it’s already swooped up a number of awards and thousands of dedicated fans across the globe, including the 2022 Tony Award for ‘Best Original Score’ and ‘Best Costume Design’, the 2022 Whatsonstage Award for ‘Best West End Show’ and a Gold-Disk winning album.
As you enter the auditorium, every seat is accounted for – there are, quite literally, a handful of single tickets left for performances in Stoke-on-Trent, so if you were hoping to catch the show, you might want to buy one immediately.
Pop songs classically reinvented seep through the speakers in a Bridgerton-esque reinvention as ticket holders shuffle in their seats ready for the sell-out Tudor take-off that has amassed a huge online following after going viral on platforms like TikTok and Instagram.
From the moment the curtain rises, it’s nothing but 80 minutes of sass, glitter and riffs to ruffle your ruffs. From Tudor Queens to Pop Princesses, the six wives of Henry VIII take to the mic to tell their tales, remixing five hundred years of historical heartbreak into an 80-minute celebration of 21st century girl power.
There’s a lot they don’t teach you at school, from adequate sexual education and women’s health, to life skills on mortgages, taxes and budgeting, and when it comes to history, the facts are often cherry-picked. It’s no secret that the lives of Henry VIII’s wives were messy, but that seems to be where the story ends – history, anyway. Six sees the half a dozen Queen consorts come together to reclaim ‘her-story’ with a histo-remix even Beyonce would be green-sleeved over.
In this groundbreaking feminist musical, the six royals take part in a live performance contest to decide which was the ‘favourite’ Queen of the Tudor monarchy, each belting out solo showstoppers with the catchiest of choruses. The tracks feel achingly familiar, and I’m not sure whether that’s a result of endless hours of TikTok scrolling or the ‘Queenspirations’ that helped create this Spice Girl-esque power-group, including the likes of Avril Lavigne, Adele, Nicki Minaj, Britney Spears and Alicia Keys.
Don’t get me wrong I love a jukebox musical, Mamma Mia, Bat out of Hell, Rock of Ages and Saturday Night Fever to name a few, but the fact that these songs have already become such well-known earworms without borrowing from the official UK charts speaks volumes.
Catherine of Aragon is played by Chloe Hart, with nods at Beyonce and Shakira in her powerful performance. Married 24 years she’s a paragon of royalty, succeeded by Jennifer Caldwell’s dry-witted, red-lipped Anne Boleyn who had the court howling with laughter with her huge personality and cheeky winks, making the role totally her own with her thick northern accent.
Casey Al-Shaqsy had the job of portraying ‘the only one he truly loved’ Jane Seymour, with a stunning ballad which really switched up the show’s upbeat dynamic with an Adele-style solo, while Anne of Cleves – played by Jessica Niles – brought the house down with her version of ‘Get Down’, complete with Rihanna-inspired vocals and dance moves.
Rebecca Wickes brought an air of Ariana Grande to her Katherine Howard, performing a track that feels very ‘If U Seek Amy’ from Britney, and finally, Catherine Parr – the survivor – brought the competition to an end as Alana M Robinson shared her story with gorgeous vocals that nodded to noughties R n B.
Together, the women delivered harmonies to rival Little Mix, Destiny’s Child and Fifth Harmony, complete with an all-female band – Maria, Bessie, Maggie and Joan – each named after the Ladies in Waiting to the Queens. And here’s a fun fact for you – pay attention to which Ladies the Queens introduce – as they ask the audience to give it up for the women who waited on them personally. It’s one of many Easter Eggs scattered throughout this work of genius, intelligently written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss.
Six also pays homage to writers like Lin-Manuel Miranda, known for Hamilton, In The Heights and more recently, the soundtrack to the Disney hit Encanto, while the choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille reminds me a lot of the aptly named social media sensation dance crew Royal Family. The costumes are well worth of their awards, each of the Queens looking utterly dazzling on set.
Six offers an hour and a half of 100 per cent sass, 100 per cent serotonin and 100 per cent pure entertainment, delivering a powerful message that we should be fixing each other’s crowns, empowering women and reminding them not to get lost in someone else’s story.
I learned more about Henry VIII’s wives in 80 minutes of high-energy pop power than I did in eight months at A-Level, and I’m convinced that had I seen Six eight years ago, I’d have been far more engaged in my A-Level History studies.
This short and snappy musical is packed with quick-witted comedy, killer choreography and catchy choruses, delivering a story you think you’ve heard before and schools you in a way you didn’t know was possible.
You can catch Six the Musical at The Regent Theatre, Hanley, until Saturday, November 20. Buy one of the last remaining tickets here before they completely sell out.