A musical where King Henry VIII’s famous six wives sing about the circumstances surrounding their deaths may not sound like the kind of show that will have you on your feet clapping to the beat, let alone show you the importance of continuing the fight for women’s rights today. Thankfully, the Queens of “SIX” are no wannabes when it comes to Spice Girls-style power pop designed to get you dancing in the aisles while they each give an empowering and entertaining “Her-story” lesson of their own.
Names like Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour and Catherine of Aragon have filled history textbooks for years, not to mention a fair number of fictional adaptations in movies, television and books. The Queens have a chance to tell their story in a way unlike any other in “SIX” however, with thumping beats and rocking choruses centered around thinly veiled but hilarious digs at Henry’s terrible temper and womanizing ways.
In fact, the show’s strength comes far less from conveying biographical facts about its leads and much more from the power that each Queen’s story has in making the struggles of 16th century life for women all too familiar for 21st century audiences.
Following a dynamic opening number, “Ex-Wives,” the Queens reveal that they want the assembled audience at Fort Worth’s Bass Performance Hall to judge a contest to see which of them has been “dealt the worst hand” in life by Henry and has therefore earned the right to be the leader of their aptly named pop group, Six.
What follows throughout the fast-paced 80-minute production is a mix of stylistic songs spanning inspirations like Beyonce, Adele, Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne as each Queen gets the chance to make her case through a signature performance.
Gerianne Perez as Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, sets the tone with her number, “No Way.” It’s a perfect encapsulation of everything “SIX” is about. “No Way” is the kind of song designed to stick in your head even as its lyrics almost necessitate repeat listens on the musical’s album to truly catch all of the references and laugh-out-loud jokes.
After her number, the Queens take a few minutes to direct some pointed barbs at one another, finding inventive ways to make audiences crack up about beheadings and other objectively tragic events in their lives. It’s a trend carried throughout the show, best delivered by Zan Berube’s performance as Anne Boleyn.
Portrayed as a sassy, selfie-obsessed teenager more than a royal regent, her comedic timing throughout her song, “Don’t Lose Ur Head,” along with the rest of the show, keeps “SIX” from ever becoming too dark, even following emotional performances like the passionate and powerful vocals of Amina Faye’s Jane Seymour singing about her own death during childbirth.
That carefully calculated balance between comedy and tragedy, catchy tunes and heartfelt moments, is the formula that makes “SIX” such a success. It lets a brilliant Tinder parody segment frame the story of Terica Marie’s Anna of Cleves rejection by Henry because her looks didn’t match her painted portrait or “profile pic,” even after she traversed an ocean to be with him.
The song following that segment also happens to be the show’s boldest as a result. “Get Down” lets Marie tear the roof off with charismatic dance moves and irreverent lyrics.
Even following such a crowd-pleasing song, as the last of the Queens gets their solo in the spotlight, audiences should see the clear picture of what “SIX” is all about. Despite how its flashy songs help it subvert its message, “SIX” shows how these Queens had to fight the same issues of gender inequality, assault and sexism as women today face.
At first, Aline Mayagoitia’s Katherine Howard seems narcissistic and self-absorbed in her song “All You Wanna Do.” “I think we can all agree, I’m the 10 amongst these threes,” Howard says before the first verse of the Ariana Grande and Britney Spears-inspired song.
After the song ended though, a hushed silence fell over the hall. In that moment, there was the palpable sense that “SIX” gave the audience a moment to reflect on how Howard’s song and story actually paints the picture of the same sort of systemic abuse and grooming capturing Hollywood headlines today.
By time Adriana Scalice’s Catherine Parr takes over with an impassioned plea to the Queens’ to not allow Henry to divide them even after all these years, it makes you long for the opportunity to hear the Queens explore more of the history they wish they had rather than the one history forces them to relive.
That’s the true power of “SIX” at work. With quick wit and killer beats, the Queens of “SIX” prove they can match melodies with anyone as they put on the kind of iconic, viral moment-filled stage show that would fit right at home on the big screen next to Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.
Nonetheless, it’s the characters behind the songs that capture the hearts and minds of the audience, leaving them with a new understanding of the importance of making the societal changes necessary today so that more women have the chance to celebrate their own “her-stories” in the future.
“Six” runs through December 3 at Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth. For more information about the show, including how to purchase tickets, visit https://www.basshall.com/ or https://sixonbroadway.com/.