Saturday, October 9, 2021

Broadway Theater Review: SIX

Abby Mueller (Jane Seymour), Samantha Pauly (Katherine Howard), Adrianna Hicks (Catherine of Aragon), Andrea Macasaet (Anne Boleyn), Brittney Mack (Anna of Cleves) and Anna Uzele (Catherine Parr). Photo: Joan Marcus

SIX
By Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss
Directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage 
Choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille
Brook Atkinson Theater

By Lauren Yarger
Laugh-out-loud jokes and loud, pounding music are not exactly what come to mind when pondering the plight of Henry VIII's six unfortunate wives, but you will find yourself laughing and bopping to the beat while enjoying SIX: The Musical,  Broadway's exciting version of the West End hit by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss.

Directed by Moss and Jamie Armitage, these six women finally get their moment in the spotlight, both in the story and on stage. SIX was one of the tragedies of the pandemic, set to open on the night Broadway went dark back in March 2020. Now, back to tell their stories, the wives compete in a reality-TV mode to see who has the most tragic story from her time as one of the wives of Henry. They each have a song (all done beltingly or balladly beautifully) which explain the theme of their experiences: divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived.

Here's a short history lesson for those of you who aren't up on the six wives of Henry VIII:
Catherine of Aragon (Adrianna Hicks) was Henry's first wife, but when she couldn't produce a male heir, Henry turned his eye to the bewitching Anne Boleyn (a very funny Andrea Macasaet). When the pope wouldn't grant him an annulment, he declared himself the head of the new Church of England, got rid of Catherine (divorced) and married Anne any way.  Unfortunately for Anne, she too only produced a girl (the future Queen Elizabeth I), so Henry got rid of her (beheaded) and married Jane Seymour (Abby Mueller -- I saw understudy Mallory Maedke). Henry got his desired son and male heir but lost Jane who suffered complications in childbirth (died). 

Next, Henry saw a portrait of Anne of Cleves (Brittney Mack) and summoned her to England to become wife number four. She didn't look all that fetching in person, however, so Henry decided he wanted out of the marriage (divorce), set her up in a nice palace and called her "sister" instead of wife. The king, who was SO good at making spousal-type decisions, decided a child bride would be a good idea and married Anne Boleyn's cousin, Katherine Howard (Samantha Pauly -- I saw understudy Courtney Mack). Plagued by gout, obesity and probably a host of other illnesses, Henry wasn't exactly in prime baby-making condition, but he still expected a spare male heir from young Katherine. She turned to some younger male friends to help seal the deal, but the plan backfired when she was caught cheating.  So long, Katherine (beheaded). Finally, Henry chose mature, pious Catherine Parr (Anna Uzele) for his sixth queen. About five years later, he died. She was the only one who survived. The cast also includes Keirsten Nicole Hodgens and Nicole Kyoung-Mi Lambert.

In such a tragic story, Marlow and Moss find lots of humor. And they manage to modernize women from the 16th century to create an exciting energizing show that appeals to young audience members (there were lots at the Brooks Atkinson the night I attended) with color-blind casting  for those wanting to see persons of color, rather than historically accurate portrayals on stage. Carrie-Anne Ingrouille's choreography is energetic and hasn't lost any of its oomph with alterations made with Covid safety in mind. Costumes by Gabreiella Slade are bright and brilliant; the set (Emma Bailey, design) is simple and houses the all-female band, the “Ladies in Waiting.” Tim Deiling's lighting design competes the set for the reality-show concert theme, which thankfully isn't overdone. 

The pop music is loud, percussion-driven and fun. I bought the soundtrack after seeing and loving the show in March of 2020 and it's a favorite (Catherine Parr's solo "I Don't Need Your Love" is the weakest, as though after pounding out so many great tunes, the songwriters just didn't have enough energy to come up with one more.) Most of the others are catchy and will have you humming them long after you leave the theater.

Getting the soundtrack in advance isn't a bad idea. The lyrics are quite clever and vital to the storytelling, but the sound on stage (Paul Gatehouse) doesn't always pick them up and if you don't know Henry's story or all the words to the songs, you could feel like you are missing something in this fast-paced 80 minutes with no intermission.  The score features orchestrations by Tom Curran with music supervision and vocal arrangements by Joe Beighton and US Music Supervision by Roberta Duchak.

SIX is currently on-stage at the Lyric Theatre in London’s West End and on a UK tour. The show will also launch the US National Tour with a return engagement in Chicago where the show will run at the CIBC Theatre in 2022.  

SIX plays at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 W 47th St, NYC. sixonbroadway.com

FAMILY-FRIENDLY FEATURES:
-- Mature themes
-- Some suggestive lyrics

COVID-19 SAFETY PROTOCOL INFORMATION

Please note the following vaccination and mask requirements for all attendees:

  • MASKS REQUIRED: All guests must wear a properly fitting mask over the nose and mouth in the theatre
  • VACCINATIONS REQUIRED: All guests must be fully vaccinated to enter the theatre and must present digital or physical proof at the door.
  • Children under 12 and people with a medical condition or closely held religious belief that prevents vaccination may show proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
  • PHOTO ID: Guests ages 18 and older must present a valid government-issued photo ID. Guests under 18 may also show a school photo ID. Guests under 12 must be accompanied by an adult who meets the above requirements.
  • Guests who do not comply with these policies will be denied entry or asked to leave the theatre. The only exceptions are for guests who need reasonable accommodations due to a medical exception or a sincerely held religious belief. In these cases, guests must provide proof of ONE of the following instead of evidence of vaccination:
    • negative COVID-19 PCR test performed by a medical provider within 72 hours of the performance start time.  The test results must clearly show the date and time of the test.

    OR

    • negative COVID-19 rapid antigen test taken within 6 hours of the performance start time.  The test results must clearly show the date and time of the test.  This test may be performed by a medical professional or by using an over-the-counter testing kit.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play concept, "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Intensive and other training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/.

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (http://ctarts.blogspot.com), an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com. She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp.com and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women. She is a former vice preseint and voting member of The Drama Desk.

She is a freelance writer and playwright (member Dramatists Guild of America). She is a member if the The Outer Critics Circle (event manager for the annual awards ceremony), The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and the Drama League. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She also is a member of the Episcopal Actors' Guild, the NY Public Library for the Performing Arts and The O'Neill Theatre Center..

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.

Copyright

All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact reflectionsinthelight@gmail.com

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Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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