To say that Six has been nothing short of a sensation would be an understatement. Since debuting at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2017, it has played numerous UK tours as well as global productions including one currently on Broadway. For its West End incarnation, it has moved from its home of the Arts theatre to bigger venues. Following a season at the Lyric theatre, it has now settled in to its forever home of the Vaudeville Theatre. But can it still retain the magic years after West End audiences first saw it?
Telling the story of the Ex-wives of Henry VIII, Six sets itself as a concert with each of the wives taking a turn under the spotlight to determine which one of them deserves to "win" the night. That might not sound like the most complex of themes, it carries more depth than meets the eye with its feminist lyrics, though the simplicity of the affair is definitely part of the charm that has won the show legions of fans over the last few years.
Written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, the songs are undeniably part of what has made Six so timeless. A collection of songs that take the conventional musical theatre rules and rewrite to create numbers that you could hear in the charts. Its determination to stand out in the crowd and rewrite the rules are another key to its success.
One thing Six has been legendary for is its treatment of the cast. Much has been made in recent months of the importance of understudies, alternates and swings to keep shows going. Nowhere is this celebrated more than at Six. As well as their Six main Queens, a further five alternates and super swings are ready to jump in a moments notice to give you a one of a kind line up every night. This was evident on the night I went last week where I saw three of the main Queens joined on stage by two alternates and a super swing.
Jarneia Richard Noel and Natalie Paris have been playing the roles of Catherine of Aragon and Jane Seymour for three years now. Their reigns finally come to an end later this month when the show brings in an entire new cast for the first time in its West End herstory. Jarneia kicks off proceedings as the first wife in her own inimitable style, showing why she is at home on that stage as she purrs her way through an electrifying 'No Way'. Natalie Paris has undoubtedly the biggest moment of the show with the stunning 'Heart of Stone' - the most emotional number in the show and probably one of the greatest songs in musical theatre. She delivers it with a performance so raw and powerful, it simultaneously showed how flawlessly she has been able to deliver the vocal combined with the freshness like it was the first time she has sung it. An incredible moment that forms the centrepiece of the show and brings the heart to the evening.
The last cast change added Danielle Steers to the Queens, playing the role of Catherine Parr. Anyone who has been lucky enough to see Steers in any of her previous West End roles will know what an incredible talent she is, with a voice capable of giving chills. With a character who has to play vulnerable before delivering a rousing performance that takes in every inch of the stage in 'I Don't Need Your Love', Steers proves why she is one of the best in the business. Now can she please be cast in the forthcoming production of The Cher Show?
The remaining main Queens are Courtney Bowman, Alexia McIntosh and Sophie Isaacs - I have seen all three of them previously and they are all truly fabulous. However, I will be reviewing the Queens I saw perform on this evening so won't be talking about their particular performances this time.
The alternates I saw were Cherelle Jay as Anna of Cleves and Zara MacIntosh as Katherine Howard. Cherelle displayed great sass as Cleves, not missing a beat when her victim in the audience wouldn't get down with her, while Zara was a revelation as Howard, giving one of the performances of the night and a quite frankly insane vocal during 'All You Wanna Do'. Completing the cast was super Swing Bryony Duncan, who has to learn every role and jump into any one when she is needed - a remarkable feat which really shows how vital Swings are to shows and how talented they really are. Tonight she was Anne Boleyn, delivering standout number 'Don't Lose Ur Head' in a way that can only be described as perfect.
As well as their solo numbers, the Queens come together for several big group numbers including the masterful 'Haus of Holbein', the title track 'Six' and of course its MegaSIX that have become so loved among musical theatre fans. Turning the Ex-wives into a royally good girlband, these numbers come with brilliant choreography from Carrie-Anne Ingrouille. Backed with an all female band, known as their ladies in waiting, the songs truly come alive in this fantastic musical theatre/concert hybrid. Of course, we also need to talk about the beautiful costumes that have come a long way since their first performance. Designed by Gabriella Slade, they have become as iconic as the show itself.
The set has gotten a bit glossier since its days at the Arts theatre. I have managed to catch the show at all three of its West End homes and been amazed as the show got bigger and better each and every time. What started out as a fringe show, Six feels more at home on a larger West End stage, and at the Vaudeville it truly is the best version yet. I found myself enjoying this version far more than the one I first saw at the Arts several years ago. More polished than before while still retaining the rebellious nature of its more amateur beginnings, it's not hard to see why this show has enjoyed sell-out runs for the last few years. Actually succeeding in making history interesting, I see no reason to suspect why Six won't continue for the next few years as well.
You can catch Six at the Vaudeville Theatre. Tickets from nimaxtheatres.com