REVIEW: SIX The Musical – The Queens continue to reign supreme over the West End

SIX the Musical – London Cast Pamela Raith Photography

Venue: Vaudeville Theatre, London

Performance Date: 09 November 2021

Reviewer: Gemma Fincher

Star Rating: ★★★★★

It’s nigh on inconceivable to think of a world without SIX the Musical. It’s also fairly inconceivable to believe that a short four years ago, this global phenomenon of a show was a mere concept of third-year university students Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss.

Fast-forward to 2021 and SIX is a full-blown juggernaut of popularity, as Nica Burns says in her programme welcome note, “It’s not just a musical. It’s not just a concert. It’s a PHENOMENON!” Despite the intervention of COVID the show is now stateside, having enjoyed its delayed Broadway opening last month. The Queens are now officially taking over the world. To date SIX has conquered the UK, North America, Australia, New Zealand, and even the cruise ships. Such is its popularity, the original London cast has created a super girl group, Seven, who will have their debut headline show in February 2022.

For those unfamiliar, SIX is a one-act musical that tells the story of the six wives of Henry the VIII. Thanks to the notoriety of their philandering husband, each Queen is resigned to being “just one word in a stupid rhyme”. The empowering musical gives the Queens back their voices as they tell their own truths. Presented as a tongue-in-cheek-sing-off to determine who had it worse, the Queens take back their stories and rewrite history (or as they like to call it, herstory) for 80 minutes anyway.

The enduring popularity of the show has seen it take up residence in its new forever home, The Vaudeville. Since its conception, there have never been wholesale changes to SIX, but over the years there have been refinements. As the Vaudeville residency commences, Tim Deiling’s lighting design feels more vibrant, Gabriella Slade’s costumes drip decadence and Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s choreography elevates the numbers to new levels. The atmosphere in the new space definitely feels more regal, and with the greatest of respect to the Arts Theatre, more akin to SIX’s needs.

The tweaks and changes to the arrangements of the numbers have also added to the depth of the piece. Jane Seymour’s emotive power ballad Heart of Stone wouldn’t be out of place at an Adele concert, and feels more emotional and ethereal than ever before.

Katherine Howard’s poptastic but also unnervingly harrowing All You Wanna Do is made just that, a hundred times more traumatic. The lyrics take on such a predatory meaning that wasn’t necessarily explicit before. A clever tweak to deliver some light and shade to proceedings. It also adds some depth to Howard, who the other Queens tease is the least relevant Katherine.

Next week a new cast of Queens is set to be coronated, but for now, it was a real treat to take in the current cast one last time. London original Catherine of Aragon, Jarnéia Richard-Noel and Anna of Cleves, Alexia McIntosh were in residence with the former bringing all the sulky sass we have all come to know and love. The latter is somehow more badass, and nonchalant than ever.

Sophie Isaacs, is a pocket rocket of a performer and brings an incredibly nuanced performance to the despoiled Katherine Howard. Isaac’s Howard is an incredibly layered version, providing the deceiving poppy number with the required level of darkness.

SIX is one of the biggest champions of alternates in the industry. In fact, without consulting the programme it is impossible to know which of the cast are principals and which are alternates.

Each cast member brings their own glorious identity and interpretation to their role. Cherelle Jay’s Anne Boleyn is hilariously unflinching, and her comic timing is so on point. Collette Guitart’s Seymour brings the raw emotion and all the feels with a masterful performance. She was also completely undeterred by a mic issue, which she handled like the consummate pro she is. Hana Stewart’s Catherine Parr ties up proceedings with poise and class.

There is no doubt that SIX will run and run, and it deserves to do so. This show is a true champion of diversity both on and off-stage and enjoys a loyal and zealous fan base. With the new cast about to commence their reign, it will be a treat to see how the Queens evolve as their new caretakers ascend the throne.

Runs until 1 May 2022 and for eternity – let’s face it

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