Grand Opera House York – until Sunday 16th October 2022
Reviewed by Michelle Richardson
The Grand Opera House in York was certainly buzzing last night, with the opening show of the phenomenon that is SIX. This is the global sensation, with excellent reviews, that everyone is raving about. Yorkshire has obviously heard of its reputation for a fabulous night out, it was a packed house, in fact every show of this York run has now sold out.
The story is a thoroughly modern retelling of the lives of King Henry VIII’s six wives. Written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, it is a musical comedy presented as a pop concert. First presented at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2017 it has gone on to conquer the West End and Broadway.
After an ensemble piece, “Ex Wives”, the wives of Henry VIII decide to compete, to see who has endured and suffered more at the hands of Henry. The winner will then be crowned the groups lead singer. Each Queen takes turns in telling their dramatic story, through song and dance, making digs at each other. This narrative gives The Queens a voice, a chance to tell their stories from their prospective. Who will be the ultimate winner?
Catherine of Aragon (Chloe Hart) was loyal to Henry but couldn’t produce a male heir. After over 20 years of marriage, he wanted an annulment and to ship her off to a nunnery. Divorced! Anne Boleyn (Jennifer Caldwell) complains about Henry’s infidelity, but after trying to make him jealous, is executed for her supposed infidelity. Beheaded! Jane Seymour (Casey Al-Shaqsy) dies just after giving birth to Henry’s only legitimate male offspring. Died! Anne of Cleves (Jessica Niles) is shipped over from Germany. Henry is not impressed, but still marries her before arranging an annulment, where she earns a very generous settlement. Divorced! Katherine Howard (Leesa Tulley) is very young when she catches the king’s eye. A short while after marrying she is accused of adultery. Beheaded! Catherine Parr (Alana Robinson) is the last of the wives, outliving the aged monarch. Survived!
All six queens were truly magnificent, each having a chance to shine, remarkable in their own way. Hart is a vocal powerhouse, owning the stage as she sings. Caldwell is hilarious, with her northern accent and interruptions about losing her head. Al-Shaqsy delivers an emotional, touching performance. Niles plays centre stage to the most bizarre, but glorious, Haus of Holbein, a right rave, very techno with florescent glasses and clothing, all delivered with German accents. Tulley is the pop princess, with her Scottish accent, full of 21st century sass. Robinson delivers the crowning stroke, giving a sense of female empowerment and solidarity. All the while The Queens are joined on stage by the amazing all-female band, Ladies in Waiting, they had the theatre bouncing with their explosive performances.
The costumes and hair were just spectacular, visually striking. Leather, studs, sparkles, and spikes everywhere. The costumes did have a look of Tudor but with a very contemporary twist, check out the little slots they had for their microphones, very inspired.
This show is energetic, full of sass, but poignant at the same time. At only 80 minutes long, there is no interval, it leaves a lasting impression. I learnt more about Henry VIII’s wives from this than I ever did at school, and it has encouraged me to find out more.
This is not your traditional musical, it has the feel of a concert, with amazing songs, set and costumes, with great powerful performances. An absolutely stunning show, the girls smashed it. DO NOT miss this one.
If this comes to a theatre near you make sure you book early. Like I have already mentioned, York is sold out for this tour, but it returns next June, so best be quick in buying your tickets, you will not be disappointed.