Six, the British ‘Hamilton’, dazzles at the American Repertory Theater


Liz Lauren

Catherine Parr (Anna Uzele, at center) performs “I Don’t Need Your Love” in “Six”.

Ella Amouyal, Cambridge School of Weston

Six the musical has made an appearance at Cambridge’s American Repertory Theater and is planning on traveling next to Broadway in 2020. The show follows the six wives of Henry VIII – Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Katherine Parr –  as they are reincarnated as a girls-group band who compete and challenge each other on who has it worse with the king. Each of the Queens is inspired by modern-day celebrities including Beyonce and Shakira (Catherine of Aragon), Nicki Minaj and Rihanna (Anne of Cleves), Lily Allen and Britney Spears among others.

The show exceptionally stands out in its use of tongue in cheek, history-inspired humor. I particularly enjoyed Anne of Cleve’s remark that she looked “more rad than Luthertnamism” in her upbeat song “Get Down” and the wives’ assertion that “we’ll start again like it’s the Renaissance” in the opening tune “Ex-Wives.”

The humor is part of Six’s anachronistic retelling of the story. This is evident in the use of 21st-century slang, historically- inspired costumes and the pop-concert-looking set design. Yet, this modern influence is not only for entertainment. I found the lyrics which discuss how the wives are “taking back the microphone” and doing “justice” to their stories also added a poignant and timely depth. While many adaptions of the story pit the wives against each other and try to get viewers to pick a “favorite” wife, Six rejects this narrative and embraces each queen’s individual strength and defiance during a time that encouraged otherwise.

Six attests to the hunger for theater that renounces the puritanism of “historical accuracy” and instead looks to the past through a modern, 21st-century-inspired perspective. Despite the apparent connection to HamiltonSix differs in its humor, buoyant energy, and overtly feminist stance.

As the show comes to an end, the queens impactfully sing that “It’s the end of the show, of the historemix, we switched up the flow and we changed the prefix” and quite successfully they did. Despite the subject of Henry VIII’s wives being common, even cliche, in the media, Six manages to look at the subject with fresh eyes and leaves the spectators entertained and inspired. I know that this will be a show that does survive the test of time.

Image credit: Catherine Parr (Anna Uzele, at center) performs “I Don’t Need Your Love” in SIX, written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss and directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage. Photo Credit: Liz Lauren

–Sept. 6, 2019–