SIX The Musical

March 16, 2022 | By More

★★★★☆   Spitting rhymes

Festival Theatre: Tue 15 – Sat 26 March 2022
Review by Thom Dibdin

Six new queens have taken up royal residency in the cast of SIX, which drops into the Festival Theatre for an extended stay through to March 26 and returns to the Glasgow Theatre Royal in June.

Staged as if the six wives of Henry the Eighth had been reincarnated as a 21st century female supergroup, SIX is an empowering, compelling show that goes far, far beyond the well-know methods of their demise.

Chloe Hart, Jennifer Caldwell, Casey Al-Shaqsy, Aiesha Naomi Pease, Jaina Brock Patel and Alana M Robinson. Screen grab from promo film for new Queens.

This is history which spits rhymes, hits the high notes on big tunes and mashes down on the rhythms, while setting out lives that might not be exactly like our own but which are certainly relatable. What’s more, as a musical, SIX is fast-paced, clever and packs a very big emotional punch.

This much we knew already – Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’s show which premiered at the Fringe of 2017, has won enough accolades, been featured in enough guest spots on TV and returned enough times already to be assured of a full – and expectant – house.

The question, then, is not whether this is a cracking night out. That’s a given, as the Queens set about a competition between themselves to each sell their back stories to the audience in a big solo number – appropriate to their lives and the manner of their deaths.

Rather, it is how well the new queens succeed in weaving themselves into the characters.

To be honest, the opening title number is so tight in terms of vocals and moves that you would never have thought that Edinburgh was their first full run with this combination of six on stage. They all slotted into the slickly choreographed number with ease.

strength and precision

For their big solo numbers, Chloe Hart has the musical chops and more for divorcee Catherine of Aragon, who thought she was going to be marrying Henry’s brother, only he died. She hits the big notes of No Way with strength and precision – and oozes personality

Chloe Hart, Jennifer Caldwell, Casey Al-Shaqsy, Aiesha Naomi Pease, Jaina Brock Patel and Alana M Robinson. Screen grab from promo clip of the new Queens.

There is much more spikiness to Jennifer Caldwell’s Anne Boleyn. She might not give the quite perfect vocal performance of Don’t Lose Ur Head, but her delivery brings the number alive in a way that a recording never can. And her constant strutting round the stage, dissing the other queens who kept their heads, is a hoot.

Casey Al-Shaqsy brings a proper sense of sorrow and fragility to Jane Seymour, who had a son with Henry but who died soon after. The anthemic love song Heart of Stone brings a heartfelt dynamic to the show which was not previously apparent.

Talking of anthems, the glow-in-the-dark staging of the rave anthem-cum-cabaret number House of Holbein, is the most obviously bravura display in the whole piece of just how precisely Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s choreography, Paul Gatehouse’s sound design and Tim Deiling’s lighting work together.

Coming out of that slice of beautiful pomp, Aiesha Naomi Pease needs every ounce of her considerable stage presence for divorcee Anna of Cleves’ throbbing rap in Get Down. Her voice is a character all to itself and she owns the number, from the boot-quivering bass right up to her last triumphant sneer of survival.

understanding

With the least known about the life of decapitated Katherine Howard – beyond the minute details of her sex life used to condemn her – there is most space to bring a modern understanding to her life. If Jaina Brock Patel feels vocally underpowered for the opening verses of All You Wanna Do, the understanding she finds as it goes on is brilliant – the loss and confusion of a young woman constantly used by coercive and entitled men rings out loud and clear.

Alana M Robinson would light up any musical theatre stage and her almost casual delivery of Catherine Parr in I Don’t Need Your Love, belies a deep understanding of the whole piece and its complexities. Parr survived Henry, but in her marriage to him, she gave up her own one-true love.

If the opening is tight – as is the triumphant finale – the new cast still have a bit of a journey to make in their delivery of the show’s turning point, when the whole piece is resolved. And in a musical which is justifiably celebrated for its word-play and lyrics, there are certainly a few more nuances to squeeze out in that area.

But overall, the weave is strong on these new Queens who, with their equally on-point backing band, ensure that SIX will carry on raising the roof on its continuing tour, with its triumphant celebration of girl power.

Running time: One hour and 20 minutes (no interval)
Festival Theatre, 13/29 Nicolson Street EH8 9FT. Phone booking: 0131 529 6000
Tuesday 15 – Sunday 26 March 2022
Tue- Thu: 8pm, Fri 6pm & 8.30pm; Sat 2.30pm & 8pm, Sun 2pm
Tickets and details: Book here.

Glasgow Theatre Royal, 282 Hope Street, Glasgow G2 3QA
Tuesday 14 – Sunday 19 June 2022
Tue-Thur: 8pm; Fri: 6pm, 8pm; Sat: 4pm, 8pm: Sun: 2pm.
Tickets and details:  Book here.

Screen grab from promo clip of the new Queens.

ENDS

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