I’m the sort of guy who always tries to watch a show as soon as they make it to the stage, give me an opening night and I’m there. Whether it’s a ‘getting in first‘ thing, or wanting to avoid any spoilers people inevitably like to give, I’m not sure. With regards SIX, I was there pretty much at the start of its London life, although I came to it quite by accident.
Now it’s a fully formed, massive touring force of musical nature, I was eager to watch it again after so many years, wondering if the show I saw in a tiny venue in London retained all the qualities which made it a unique piece of theatre.
The answer is most certainly a resounding yes, and boy does it work brilliantly on the Donald Gordon stage at the Wales Millennium Centre, where its set up its royal residence until the 14th May.
What I loved about this show back then was the fact it didn’t mess around, and the same applies with the latest production. It begins, smashes through a dozen or so of the best original songs, played by an incredible live band, who are on stage too, and before you know it, they are gone.
SIX is 80 minutes (no interval) of sassy history story-telling, the likes of which you won’t find in any text books.
If you can imagine the Tudor Queens that are the Six Wives of Henry VIII transformed into Pop Princesses. They grab their mics to tell their tales, basically remixing five hundred years of historical heartbreak into an 80-minute celebration of 21st century sisterly sass-itude. These Queens may have green sleeves but the lipstick is rebellious red. It’s time they told their story.
Okay, that’s the tour sales pitch, but what do we actually get on stage?
First thing to say is that SIX definitely has more of a concert vibe than an actual piece of musical theatre, and it works all the better for it. Think of something between the two and you’ve got the idea. The Queens light up the stage, with a resounding ‘Hello Cardiff‘ and from that moment on it really is non-stop.
Straight away you’ll notice how incredible the costumes are. GABRIELLA SLADE has turned out some really stunning outfits which give our Queens an edgy look and not at all the four plus layers the real life Queens would have worn. I think if old Henry would have these wives in Court it’s he who would have lost his head.
The set by EMMA BAILEY makes you feel you’ve landed in the middle of a Little Mix gig, which is ironic, as those ladies were also in town last night, and with the pop concert style lighting designed by TIM DEILING, with it’s ever-changing beams and flashes, you really do see the lines blur between musical and gig.
It is however, the amazing vocals from each of the ‘Queens‘ which bring this piece together. They sing and dance life their lives depended on it, and in the case of the plot, that’s exactly what it is.
Before we tell you what South Wales Life thought of the performance, let’s hear from the hugely enthusiastic audience at the Wales Millenium Centre on opening night…….
I think we need to remember this is a tragic tale with each of the six wives of Henry VIII telling their story, both collectively and individually. Catherine of Aragon (CHLOE HART), Anne Boleyn (JENNIFER CALDWELL), Jane Seymour (CASEY AL-SHAQSY), Anne of Cleves (AIESHA PEASE), Katherine Howard (JAINA BROCK-PATEL) and Catherine Parr (ALANA M ROBINSON) are brought to life with a modern take on a centuries old story. But amongst all the glitz and glamour, the songs and dancing, there is a lesson to be taught, and perhaps one to be learned too.
GRACE MELVILLE, LEESA TULLEY and NATALIE PILKINGTON (Dance Captain) are with the cast as Alternates, with Super Swing HARRIET CAPLAN-DEAN.
On stage throughout the show, and as much a part of the SIX story as the Wives, are the incredible all-female band THE LADIES IN WAITING.
- Musical Director/Keys: JENNY DEACON
- Guitar: LAURA BROWNE
- Bass: KAT BAX
- Drums: VANESSA DOMINIQUE
From the moment we hear Divorced. Beheaded. Died. Divorced. Beheaded. Survived. We are taken through six lives and six very differing stories, the one common bond is they were all married to Henry.
The wives each give us their account of life with the big man, and collectively they battle it out over who had the worst time of it (personally I think they all had a pretty crap time with him). As an audience we feel sympathy for each of them, but we also laugh and sing-a-long too. This is a joyful show to watch with the cleverest of twists on a stuffy old history lesson.
There are lots of moments when we learn things you may not know about these women, and I’m not going to spoil any of them, but the way they are portrayed, and how the songs are written, makes them instantly relatable to a modern crowd. Like when Anne of Cleeves sings that Henry didn’t approve of her Profile Picture.
The music doesn’t let up for one second as we go from Queen to Queen, with each of them taking on a different Pop Princess Persona. Lyrically the songs are smart, funny, thought provoking and actually, when you cut through it all, historically accurate.
The Ex-Wives opener gives us an introduction to each of the Queen’s story and how they fit into Henry’s life. From there we are treated to absolute belting songs which Arianna and Taylor would be proud of. We even get a bit of Techno as the girls don the luminous glasses, the lighting shifts into full on ‘house’ mode as Anne of Cleves belts out ‘House of Holbein‘.
I need to say again that the lighting in the show is exceptional.
Although the songs are funny, and the little verbal cat-fighting in between from the Queens is playful, the real facts are not a walk in the park. Katherine Howard’s story is a difficult one and Jaina Brock-Patel brings out every emotion in a bit of a show-stealing number.
As she sings she was ‘13 going on 30‘ and her relationship with music teacher Henry Mannox who was 23. Then Francis Dereham, the sexy secretary to the Dowager Duchess. By the time she gets to Henry with his short temper and sleazy mates, you can’t help but wonder if we’ve heard this part of history on a very recent rerun.
Every song is a winner, and well worthy of the 300 million streams they’ve had and over 3 billion views on TikTok. The original studio album of SIX has gone gold, with over 100,000 copies sold, and by all accounts it’s about to make its way on to vinyl. I guarantee, that once you’ve seen the show it will make its way onto your favourite device.
This multi Olivier Award nominated, Radio 2 Audience Award winner of a show is the brainchild of TOBY MARLOW and LUCY MOSS and began life as a college project for the Cambridge Musical Theatre Society to be submitted to the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017. Who would have guessed that the show would end up in the West End, playing on Broadway, and now out on its second tour of the UK? Well actually, I would.
I have been bleating on about SIX, to anyone who would listen, since I saw it all those years ago in London. It is so different, and so original that it really is a must-see. What you get on stage is one thing but the SIX fans are really something else. Those in the know, go absolutely crazy for our six Pop Queens.
If you’re unsure whether this is for you, put your head on the block, grab a ticket and get along to see it. SIX is a Super-Smart, Sassy, Sexy, Shameless Stage Sensation. It really is one of a kind in every possible way and worthy of the title ‘Global Phenomenon’. We are lucky to have it here for two weeks but it’s also a testament as to just how good this show is.
SIX is at the Wales Millennium Centre till Saturday 14th May, a longer run than their previous visit. There’s a variety of performance times from a 2:30pm matinee to 8:30pm evening show, with a few in between. For more details and ticket information, go here. SIX
If you take a look at our audience reaction video further up this page, you see one very excited, total Mega-SIX fan AMY, along with her music loving sister HEATHER, who is a member of LOUD APPLAUSE RISING STARS. We love these pictures her Mum sent through.
And you can check our original show feature HERE.