Music and Lyrics: Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss
Directors: Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage
Reviewer: Gemma Fincher
There are simply not enough superlatives to describe just how good Six is. Based on the six wives of Henry VIII, Six is a vivacious, modern remix of Tudor history with a soundtrack to die for. Written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss during the last year of their degree at Cambridge University, the musical was conceived as a homage the six key historical figures whose voices were never heard and whose stories paled into insignificance thanks to the notoriety of their husband.
Six made its premiere at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2017, presented by the Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society. The musical soon caught the eye of high-profile producers including husband and wife team John and Wendy Barnes, founders of Perfect Pitch Productions. Their non-profit production house is dedicated to developing new British musicals and supporting emerging talent. The duo teamed up with prominent producer Kenny Wax and composer George Stiles and the core creative team for Six was complete.
With Six now an established presence in the West End, it was only a matter of time before a UK tour was announced. With the original London cast setting the bar so high, could the casting directors possibly recreate the same magical chemistry? It is safe to say that the touring cast more than lives up to expectations. With the principal cast comprising Lauren Drew (Catherine of Aragon), Maddison Bulleyment (Anne Boleyn), Lauren Byrne (Jane Seymour), Shekinah McFarlane (Anne of Cleves), Jodie Steele (Katherine Howard), Athena Collins (Catherine Parr). The talented sextuplet takes the opportunity to add a new dimension to the show, keeping it feeling fresh and exciting.
So, what of the queens? Up until now, they have been “just one word in a stupid rhyme” Now they have picked up a pen and a microphone to tell their stories on their own terms. The poptastic ensemble opening number Ex-Wives is a thumping introduction to the queens, outrageously cleverly written and arranged, the number takes no time in introducing the audience to the mind-blowing vocals on show.
The power, range and vocal placement of each queen is astonishing, they sound incredible separately but together they are otherworldly. Each wife takes a solo, in a hilarious mock ‘sing-off’ with each queen competing to win the crown (pun intended) for most hard-done-by wife. Singling out individual performances is unfair given that all members of this cast bring so much to this production – there is no weak link.
Each queen is ingeniously adept at tweaking their performances by the finest of margins, providing just the tiniest nuanced look or action that makes a huge impact. It is also refreshing to see an all-female band, all highly accomplished musicians, and just as important as the queens themselves. They deliver the pop/rock score with such authority that it genuinely raises the roof.
Whilst being incredibly historically accurate, the script and lyrics are also incredibly witty, razor-sharp and clever. Six is a lesson in female empowerment lead by an all-female cast and band. One of Marlow and Moss’ key objectives for the show was that it didn’t need to be about or to include men in the narrative to be engaging and entertaining. They achieve that goal with abundance.
Six has already garnered a devoted and passionate fan base which is unsurprising seeing that the musical has a banging soundtrack filled to the brim with sass and attitude and overflowing with positivity. Flawless and sassy, all six queens (as the kids say) slay over and over again.
Having already picked up a multitude of awards and various nominations, this effervescent show deserves every plaudit and award that comes its way. Surely a show that will run and run? It would be a royal travesty if not.
Runs until 23 November 2019 Image: Idil Sukan