Epic girl power: The glam-pop theater event you don't want to miss

Jan 20, 2023

Divorced. Beheaded. Died. Divorced. Beheaded. Survived. You know the pithy little rhyme. You probably even remember that Anne Boleyn (wife #2) led Henry VIII — and England — to break with the Catholic church in Rome. But what do we really know about these six glorious women beyond their one-word fate in a schoolhouse verse?

Get your her-story lesson at "SIX The Musical," the roof-raising, ballad-belting, booty-shaking, Destiny's Child-channeling celebration of ultimate girl power that fuses glam pop, rock, hip-hop, electronica, house music, and yes, even a little Greensleeves (the English folk song allegedly written for Anne Boleyn) to reframe King Henry VIII's famous love life from the women's point of view. As the Queens sing in the show's first thrilling few minutes: "History's about to get 'overthrone' ... welcome to the show, to the historemix."

2023 Broadway cast, Photo by Joan Marcus

And now with a new cast stepping into the Queens' rhinestone-covered boots, now is a great time to catch this critically acclaimed and uplifting show.

The Queens find their voices

The scene: Cambridge University, 2016, fall semester. Undergrad Toby Marlow, who had been selected to compose original music for the college's Edinburgh Fringe Festival entry the following summer, was discussing William Blake in a poetry class when inspiration struck. He jotted down his vision — a pop musical about the Tudors — in his notebook and enlisted fellow student Lucy Moss to help him realize the concept. The pair collaborated over the next several months, penning what would turn into a glitzy, high-energy production telling the perspectives of Henry VIII's six wives.

The euphoric spectacle re-imagines the six historic women as the hosts (and rival participants) of a pop-concert competition, with the feisty Queens coming head-to-head to see who suffered the most during their tenure as wife to the famously ruthless king. (The TikTok-ready Queens of "SIX" are fluent in Internet speak, by the way: "Everybody chill; It's totes God's will," sings Boleyn in "Don't Lose Ur Head.")

2023 Broadway cast, Photo by Joan Marcus

The show premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland to loads of acclaim. That success soon converted into a West End premiere in London, a U.K. national tour, a smash-hit studio cast soundtrack, and, in 2019, a hop across the pond for its U.S. debut. Hours before the curtain went up for SIX's Broadway debut in March 2020, Broadway went dark due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Fast-forward nearly 18 months, the curtain finally (officially) opened for the glam pop-heavy musical's Broadway debut. It quickly gained critical acclaim and in 2022, won Tony Awards® for Best Original Score and Costume Design.

The SIX-cess has continued. Twenty-three awards in all, including Three Outer Critics Circle Awards, plus a No. 1 Broadway Cast album on Billboard and thousands of enthusiastic Broadway theatergoers applauding this glam-rock musical that lets the Queens transcend their place in popular lore.

OK, ladies, let’s get in reformation: reclaiming women’s stories

One at a time, in chronological order, the Queens step into the spotlight, channeling modern-day pop superstars like Beyoncé, Britney Spears, Rihanna, and Adele to sing about their particular trauma as the conquests and eventual wives-slash-ex-wives of Henry VIII. Their stories may have been reduced in the popular imagination to their single-word fate (in a neat rhyming order, no less), but on the "SIX" stage, the women joyously take control of their own narratives — and do so with pop-diva swagger, to beats that sound straight off a Shakira or Nicki Minaj track.

2023 Broadway cast, Photo by Joan Marcus

The musical comes at a point in cultural history when women and nonbinary people, often wrongly miscast by the media and in the public imagination, are taking control of their stories. For some notable figures (Henry's six wives included), this happens posthumously, with biopics, biographies, musicals, articles, and podcasts seeking to reframe their legacy. Think "Respect," the 2021 Aretha Franklin biopic starring Jennifer Hudson, and "Whitney Houston: I Wanna Dance with Somebody," the latest (2022) in a stream of films, books, and podcasts re-examining Houston's megawatt life and legacy. For years, journalists Sarah Marshall and Michael Hobbes re-evaluated the stories of maligned women — typically hugely influential women, such as Catherine the Great and Tammy Faye Bakker, who had been reduced to punchlines — on their podcast "You're Wrong About."

Other celebrities have set the story straight in their own lifetime; in 2016, Yoko Ono told "Us Weekly" that she had "nothing to do with breaking up the Beatles," Jessica Simpson bravely wrote about body issues, toxic relationships and more in her autobiography "Open Book" in 2021, and Britney Spears took to YouTube to speak her truth in an impromptu video in 2022. 

Raising the (castle) roof

Re-examining historical figures shouldn't be this much fun. In the opening moments of "SIX," the audience is plunged into darkness with the familiar chords of folk favorite "Greensleeves" filling the theater. The quaint tune fades; the Queens' smoke-backed silhouettes come into view. Down the line, one by one, they shout out the one-word destiny their story has been flattened to ("divorced," "beheaded"). From this point on, it's all the flashing lights, pop-rock beats, sassy bedazzled skirts, and "make some noise!" commands of an Ariana Grande concert. 

2023 Broadway cast, Photo by Joan Marcus

But instead of one larger-than-life pop diva, you get six: the creators thought of specific "queenspirations" for each ex-wife: Beyoncé for Catherine of Aragon, a Miley Cyrus/Avril Lavgine mash-up for Anne Boleyn. The six duke it out for the coveted position of leader of the band before realizing their trauma is shared. The result is an electric, infectious song competition-slash-dance party that has the audience on their feet for the final number.

2023 Broadway cast, Photo by Joan Marcus

See the show

Join the party at the Lena Horne Theatre — the only Broadway theater named after a woman of color — where shows are on six nights a week (Sunday-Monday and Wednesday-Thursday at 7 p.m., Friday-Saturday at 8 p.m.), plus weekend matinees (Saturday at 3 p.m. & Sunday at 2 p.m.) (Pro tip: the 7 p.m. Wednesday and Sunday shows are your best shot for last-minute availability.)

A digital lottery, open from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. the day before a performance, features a limited number of $30 tickets. If the show is sold out, you can also try your luck with $49 standing-room tickets, only available at the box office the day of the performance.

Ready to go? Learn more and get tickets to see the award-winning "SIX The Musical" on Broadway.

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