By Sue Morgan
Kicking off Women’s History Month a few weeks early, Broadway San Francisco couldn’t have made a better choice than with the much awarded Six the Musical, at the Orpheum Theatre in San Francisco through March 19th.
With a supremely talented all-woman cast, Six takes the audience on an exuberantly wild ride through the trials, tribulations and jubilation of the lives of the six wives of Henry the VIII, reimagined as contemporary pop stars.
Awards, including a Tony for Best Original Score (Music and Lyrics) and the Outer Critics Circle Award for Best Musical of the 2021-22 Broadway season, are only part of the story. With its celebration of feminism and up-to-the-minute Millennial and Gen Z-speak, Six appeals to young (and not-so-young) adults in the same way today’s arena megastars do. In fact, the six Queens’ personas, appearance and vocal stylings are literally borrowed from those very same megastars. Opening night, highly amped attendees cheered after every song and responded enthusiastically to the performers’ prompts.
…the energy at times ratcheted to near fever pitch…
With no pretense of historical accuracy, the premise is secondary to the energy, passion, and powerhouse vocals on display as our Queens engage in a competition to determine who will be awarded the coveted title “Leader of the Band.” The women play off one another beautifully, whether bantering, baiting or backing each other, as one by one they take center stage to make their case.
Choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille is brilliant, blending technical jazz, hip-hop and house dance with a smattering of vogueish posing. In combination with the hard rock-driven intensity and volume of the excellent backing band—the “Ladies in Waiting,” the energy at times ratcheted to near fever pitch.
Lighting design by Tim Deiling transformed a very basic set into a phantasmagorical Queendom, while costume design by Gabriella Slade gave the Queens an edgy, almost steampunk vibe.
The Queens, without exception, gave outstanding performances. Power ballad “Heart of Stone,” gave Jane Seymour (soon-to-be megastar in her own right, Jasmine Forsberg) the opportunity to display her remarkable range, tremendous vocal power, and technical virtuosity. Anne Boleyn (Broadway performer Storm Lever) displayed perfect comic timing and garnered the lion’s share of laughs during the performance, riffing on, of all things, the fact that she’d been beheaded! “Haus of Holbein,” featured the Queens wearing demented sunglasses, and with frantic circus-like music propelling their exaggerated Berlin-esque accents, added an element of campy fun to an already enormously entertaining show.
Near the end of the performance, the energy shifted into low gear as Catherine Parr (Gabriela Carrillo in one of the most poignant and vulnerable performances of the production) suffered an existential crisis which momentarily brought the action to a halt. After rallying, Catherine pointed out that the Queens had fallen into the trap of comparing themselves in relation to their experiences as wives of Henry VIII. The previously vacuous Anne Boleyn, garnered more laughs with the revelation that doing so “…necessarily elevates a historical approach ingrained in patriarchal structures.” Then, aside to the audience, with a smug look, “I read.”
After pondering how to turn that structure on its head, the group reclaims their personal narratives and rewrites history, allowing each of them to become their own leading lady. To the delight of the audience, the production closes with an electrifying and empowering remix of the song “I Don’t Need Your Love,” followed by “Six.”
A rousing and protracted well-deserved standing ovation was accentuated by glittering confetti raining down on the Queens, ala the “golden buzzer” award given to the very best contestants on Simon Cowell’s well-known talent show.
Random audience members—nearly all grinning and exclaiming animatedly to their friends about the performance—were polled as they filed out of the theatre. Many described the production as “Amazing!”, “Fantastic!” or “Unbelievable!” Several gushed, “OMG, it was SO good!” and “I loved it!” while another insisted it was the “Best musical I’ve ever seen!” How many had she seen? “Too many!”
Need I say more?
Contributing Writer Sue Morgan is a literature-and-theater enthusiast in Sonoma County’s Russian River region. Contact: email@example.com
|Production||Six: The Musical|
|Written By||Lucy Moss/Toby Marlow|
|Directed by||Lucy Moss/Jamie Armitage|
|Production Dates||Through Mar 19th|
|Production Address||The Orpheum
1192 Market St, San Francisco, CA 94102
|Tickets||Variable. Up to $263.50, subject to change (rush tickets/discounts available)|
|Reviewer Score||Max in each category is 5/5|
|Aisle Seat Review PICK?||YES!|