Photo: Pamela Raith

What is there to say about SIX the Musical that hasn’t already been said? Since its debut at the Edinburgh Fringe more than five years ago it’s gone from strength to strength, opening at London’s Arts Theatre in 2018 and now residing at the Vaudeville Theatre on the West End. It’s now also on Broadway (with a production that won a Tony Award for Best Original Score), not to mention numerous touring productions. For a show that started life at the Fringe it’s literally gone on to become a global sensation, and from the current production it’s easy to see why.

For those who may somehow have missed it, SIX tells the story of the six wives of Henry VIII – crucially it focuses on their stories, not his. We hear enough about him in history lessons – now it’s time for herstory to take centre stage. The show plays out more like a pop concert than a traditional musical, with each queen getting their own solo song and a handful of group numbers thrown in; there are some spoken dialogue moments linking the songs. Initially it sets itself up as a competition between the queens to consider who had the most difficult time at the hands of Henry, but it becomes so much more than that.

We’ve seen the show a couple of times before and loved it both times but this new production with a refreshed cast brings a new energy to the stage and, while it’s definitely a close call, this is – possibly – our favourite version of the show to date. In a musical that celebrates female empowerment, reclaiming these womens’ stories from the traditional Henry-focused narrative, and where our queens consider the perils of pitting women against each other, it wouldn’t be appropriate for us to pick a favourite queen – it would also be impossible, given we have a sextet of standout performances.

Instead we wanted to highlight a handful of moments in the show that were particularly memorable. Baylie Carson brought an entirely different and unexpected energy to the stage as Anne Boleyn – their performance of ‘Don’t Lose Ur Head’ was unlike any we’d seen before, and all the more enjoyable and amusing for it. Claudia Kariuki, as Jane Seymour, delivered a heartrending powerhouse performance during tender ballad ‘Heart of Stone’. Meanwhile Dionne Ward-Anderson, as Anna of Cleves, was downright brilliant during ‘Get Down’ – we don’t want to spoil anything, but we couldn’t take our eyes off her.

SIX the Musical has always been a great show and this is perhaps the definitive version. Some have previously made the point that it’s not completely historically accurate (or that at least some elements of the story are up for debate) or that perhaps Henry VIII gets off too lightly. But frankly SIX is so relentlessly fun that we don’t care – it’s a masterclass in theatre. Definitely one for the history books.

GAY TIMES gives SIX the Musical – 5/5

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