Review: Six Ex-Wives Spill the Tea

By Matt Bearden

Photos: PR

Six started its reign in 2017 by students at Cambridge University. In 2020, it found its way to the U.S., where it premiered on Broadway in February. Due to a hiatus during the pandemic, Six returned in October 2021 to continue its rise to the top, becoming a huge success. The musical has won twenty-three awards —claiming two Tonys, nominated for a Grammy, and several costume and music awards. With that flash and glamour, here’s the must-know: each number is a banger (even the power ballad), the actresses fully embody their characters, and the music provides a “herstory” lesson not often told. It’s no wonder this outstanding high-feminist musical has succeeded as it has. 

At its core, this musical teaches its audiences these often-forgotten figures in European history. Yes, HBO’s 2007 The Tudors brought a romanticized (and stupidly hot) version of Henry VIII and his wives to the screen. However, the difference between The Tudors and Six is the ex-wives. Six is their chance to spill the tea on Henry VIII. And they have lots to say. 

The six ex-wives of Henry VIII form a girl group in which they compete to determine who will be the leader. How do they do it? They share trauma—but make it a pop song. The ex-wives duke it out by sharing the horrors and absurdity of their marriage to the 16th-century king of England. Each number—inspired by famous pop divas—shares with the audience just how terrible of a husband Henry VIII was. But are we even surprised? One after the other, the ex-wives share their devotion to him, their role as a woman in court, their no-choice-in-the-matter, and their own personal losses. 

When I say the actresses embody their characters, I really mean they become that queen. Have you been to a theater and felt the acting was stiff or unbelievable? Yes, no, maybe? When you see Six, you’ll agree these actresses have become their characters. In between numbers, the dialogue and banter between them is fresh and modern, but they don’t take their eye off the prize: the group leader. Anne Boleyn never misses a beat to remind her sister-wives that she’s beheaded; Jane Seymour constantly mentions her son grew up without a mother; Catherine Parr dubs the contest an exploitation of their traumas to one-up each other. 

The wisecracking wordplay within the lyrics and dialogue borders on genius. I mean, pay attention to the opening number, “Ex-Wives,” where you get a double meaning at emasculating Henry VIII. “Six” twists the words “history” and “his story” as the queens announce they’re taking back their fame and glory. The wordplay of Six is on par with Hamilton.

The delivery of these lines between the songs textures the nuances of this 80-minute musical. You empathize with these women. You probably belt out their high notes in your car, too. Audiences return to see Six because these characters are authentic and tightly knit together. You root for them!

These ex-wives are highly in tune with their common denominator. But, even more, they’re in tune with their vocal “queeninspirations.” Each queen’s song and personality are inspired by modern-day pop divas: Catherine of Aragon: Beyoncé and Shakira; Anne Boleyn: Lily Allen and Avril Lavigne; Jane Seymour: Adele and Sia; Anna of Cleves: Nicki Minaj and Rihanna; Katherine Howard: Ariana Grande and Britney Spears; Catherin Parr: Alicia Keys and Emeli Sandé. Go look these ladies up if you don’t know them. 

And with these queenspirations, their costumes are telling. Katherine Howard has that long ponytail Ariana Grande is known for; Anne Boleyn is dressed in dazzling green; Anna of Cleves gives a hint of Lady Gaga at the Superbowl; Catherine Parr is the only queen in pants and traditional-inspired puffed sleeves, a nice blend of her feminism and devotion to court. The show has won three Best Costume awards in the last two years because of these brilliant choices. 

What does it all amount to anyway? Why should you go see the musical? Because it’s fantastic. Simply. Small stage, entire female cast, brilliant costumes, and bangers for 80 minutes. If you missed seeing Six in Atlanta, check their website, sixonbroadway.com. Some major cities they’re hitting next are Cincinnati, Chicago, D.C., and Boston. For you travel and corporate gays, get your tickets!

Broadway has brought dozens of fantastic shows to the Fox Theater. Six is something special. Listen to the album, buy your tickets, and go learn some herstory. 

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