You might have noticed by now that I’m a huge fan of theater. (If not, please go see my dinner party inspired by A Midsummer Night’s Dream and report back.) During my trip to Chicago, I got to see the north American premiere of SIX the Musical, a show that took West End by storm, at Chicago Shakespeare Theater on Navy Pier. The nuanced pop musical is a retelling of the tragic lives of King Henry VIII for the modern ages, complete with Tinder references, catchy tunes, and powerhouse voices.
Written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss when they were in college, SIX has the six wives on stage at a concert competing to see whose life was more tragic. It’s a fresh twist that made every pre-teen in the audience scream during the final number.
A Q&A with the writers in the program revealed that SIX was written in this style to give complex, comedic roles to women who traditionally lack such parts in theater (and film, mind you). The whole comedic Tudor tragedy pop concert premise might not sound like it works but trust me, it does. The whole audience was grinning and dancing in their seats. SIX is an 85-minute journey. It feels cathartic. It feels inspiring. It feels like the next big thing in theatre.
Don’t let the tragic history fool you into thinking this is a tragic show. Quite the opposite. It’s full of comedic moment and will have you shouting, “YAS QUEEN!” after every number. The house was packed the night I went and the crowd was wild for it. The music includes two ballads, the latter of which brought tears to my eyes, and seven toe-tapping pop songs that are sure to be stuck in my head for years.
Each queen’s song is inspired by a different pop diva. The most notable being Anne Boleyn’s carefree Avril Lavigne persona. Typically portrayed as serious, SIX’s Boleyn flits around the stage just wanting to have fun and flirt and loses her head for it. Anna of Cleves’ number involves blocking to cleverly mimic Tinder swiping followed by the fiercest dance number in the show. Putting all of Henry VIII’s wives in a modern context is something I didn’t know I needed to see on stage but I did.
My favorite numbers were (in no particular order) No Way, Get Down, and All You Wanna Do. I don’t want to pick a favorite queen but I could hardly take my eyes off Adrianna Hicks as Catherine of Aragon. She lived her truth every moment on stage. It was the last ballad I Don’t Need Your Love that I found to be the most powerful. I’m not a crier by any means but Anna Uzele’s velvety vocals brought tears to my eyes.
I read a couple of reviews before seeing the show that said SIX lacks an emotional competition. Those reviews were written by men. SIX does not lack emotion by any means. Throughout the show, the queens deliver gut-wrenching performances song after song. No moment feels wasted, yet the upbeat nature, sassy demeanors, and incredible costumes keep SIX from feeling heavy. The final feel-good number invites the audience to get up and dance (thank goodness – everyone wanted to!) and even record it! The energy in the room was palpable.
As a fun bonus, the queens came out to the lobby for a fan meet and greet! Queue up by on the lower level by the elevators if you go. You can get your program signed and take pictures with the queens. The women could not have been nicer, taking the time to look everyone in the eye for a truly personable meet and greet moment.
This was my first experience at Chicago Shakespeare Theater and I could not have been more impressed. The theater itself is a fantastic size (500 seats) and feels a bit like a Broadway theater in the sense that there isn’t a bad seat in the house. We sat on the balcony, row B, seats 1 and 2 and an unobstructed view of the show.
There’s nearly always something playing at this Tony-award winning theater: Chicago Shakespeare Theater produces more than twenty shows a year and has over six hundred performances. The theater’s home is on Navy Pier so if you plan to visit the popular tourist attraction, plan ahead and see what’s playing at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. SIX was my favorite part of my trip and I will definitely be back to Chicago Shakes!
SIX is an incredible new work that everyone needs to experience. And queens, if you’re ever in Dallas, please know that you have a seat waiting for you at The Rose Table. It would be my honor to cook for such talent!
Disclaimer: This article is intended to be a general resource. Any recommendations are based on personal opinion. I received press tickets to this event but opinions are my own, always. I’m not a fan of negativity so if I don’t like something, I don’t write about it. I’m here to tell you about the best of the best!