The Ordway Center For the Performing Arts is a better venue for seeing Broadway shows than The Orpheum in Minneapolis. The acoustics are better, the seats are more comfortable and have more leg room. But for reasons besides enjoyment and comfort of the audience, most of the big Broadway tours go to the Orpheum. Six took a different route, usually the shows play on Broadway and then a touring company is mounted and four times out of five, that tour goes to the Orpheum. For the first time in the Ordway’s 36 year history, Six went from the Ordway to Broadway. So not only is Six a show about History, it’s a show that made history. Now for two weeks The Ordway gets to trump the Orpheum as it hosts the North American Touring company of Six, returning to the place the original cast last performed before heading to the big time. I saw Six in its initial run at the Ordway and was blown away by it. This is a show that has the audience cheering and clapping along from the moment the curtain rises as it has the heartbeat of a rock concert.
Six refers to the six wives of Henry VIII. The six wives tell their stories in song as a singing competition. The audience will be the judge of who had the worst time being married to Henry. It’s essentially a pop concert filled with history and the humor and joy you expect from a fun musical. The show runs about 85 minutes with no intermission. But what it lacks in intermission it makes up for in kick ass music! Each of the queens songs were modeled on a couple of different pop singers the likes of Beyonce, Avril Lavigne, Adele, Nicki Minaj, Britney Spears and Alicia Keys among them. The costumes also take their cue from the vocal inspirations. That said the songs are all original written by co-creators Toby Marlow & Lucy Moss. Frankly, any of them could be on the pop charts. Besides being great musically, they are filled with clever lyrics. From the chorus of the final song “Six” where it counts up to six but uses different meanings for the numbers and other plays on words like “Too Many Years Lost in HIStory”. Take it from me this is a cast album that rewards repeated listenings as there are numerous witticisms and double meanings that are easy to miss the first time through.
The set is simple, basically a set of steps in the background, places for the band members and a background framework that lights up in different ways. Simple, but very effective. In a scene where they are describing how Henry is picking his next wife it’s like he is using a life sized tinder app, swiping left to reject, the performer goes to the left and the frame she is in front of goes red. In another scene those boxes are lit to represent church windows with a cross lighting up in the center. There are lights and metallic confetti, it feels like a Pop concert, but one filled with history and all number one songs. I’ve been listening to the music off and on for three years now and every single song has earned a place in my heart. The cast is brilliant, what can you say, when they are all so good, singling one out seems like a slight on the others and also that’s exactly what we just spent the entire show learning we should not be doing. They each create a unique character which shines a light on these individual women who have been relegated to the six wives of Henry VIII. The Queens are portrayed by Gerianne Perez, Zan Berube, Amina Faye, Terica Marie, Aline Mayagoitia, and Sydney Parra. There are 4 band members as well on stage called The Ladies in Waiting, Katie Coleman is the conductor/keyboards, Sterlyn Termine on bass, Liz Faure plays the guitars, and Caroline Moore keeps the beat on the drums and man do they sound tight.
Besides providing us with great entertainment the show also draws attention through our modern eyes to the inequality that women lived under in those days. It attempts to reclaim these women not as a collective group but as the individuals they were. Reminding us that it’s demeaning and dismissive to reference them simply as a group. They were real people, they were more than just wife 1,2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. It points out that when we reference them in that way we are complicit in reinforcing the attitude of the patriarchal society that men mattered, and women’s value was in relationship to men. Unfortunately, this is not a completely obsolete view even in 2022. Like Hamilton, Six uses our modern perspective and music to illuminate the past, making it fresh and relevant again. This is one of highlights of the 2022 -2023 theater season in the Twin Cities. I urge you to take advantage of this opportunity to see Six now, it will probably be years before we get another chance. Aside from anyone who loves musical theater, this is a great show to take daughters too, it is very empowering and may educate them on people they have not been exposed to yet, and it is basically a kickass rock concert, who doesn’t like that?
Six runs through November 6th at the Ordway for more information and to snatch up the remaining tickets go to https://ordway.org/events/six
*Portions of this review were adapted from my previous entry in 2019.
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