Switching up the flow as we add the prefix
Everybody knows that we used to be six wives
Get your hands up! Get this party buzzin'!
You want a queen bee? Well there's half a dozen
Everybody knows that we used to be six wives !
But now we're ex-wives!"
Six: the Musical is a musical written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. The idea came to Marlow whilst studying in his final year at Cambridge University, and despite uncertainties from collaborator Moss, the pair wrote the musical whilst studying for their final exams. The musical premiered Off-West End at the Arts Theatre in 2017 before going on a UK Tour the following year. It re-premiered at the Arts Theatre in January of 2019 and is made its United States debut at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater in May of 2019, with that production moving to Boston that August. On August 1, 2019, a Broadway run set to debut in February of 2020 has been announced.
Six has been nominated for five Olivier Awards, including, "Best New Musical."
The musical is presented as a pop concert featuring the six wives of Henry VIII in a competition as they each recount their lives leading up to their marriage and their inevitable demise. The Queen with the worst time with Henry will become the group's lead singer.
- Catherine of Aragon (Jarneia Richard-Noel in London, Adrianna Hicks in Chicago)
- Anne Boleyn (Millie O'Connell in London, Andrea Macasaet in Chicago)
- Jane Seymour (Natalie Paris in London, Abby Mueller in Chicago)
- Anne of Cleves (Alexia McIntosh in London, Brittney Mack in Chicago)
- Katherine Howard (Aimie Atkinson in London, Samantha Pauly and (as of 25 June 2019) Courtney Mack in Chicago)
- Catherine Parr (Maiya Quansah-Breed in London, Anna Uzele in Chicago)
This musical contains examples of:
- 0% Approval Rating: Anne Boleyn is not very popular in England, not least because she replaced (and, at least in the show, openly slighted) the universally beloved Catherine of Aragon.Wow, Anne, way to make the country hate you!
- Adaptational Consent: We'll never truly know whether Katherine Howard's affair with Thomas Culpeper even actually happened, let alone if it was consensual, but the show takes the stance that it wasn't. (So did Katherine in real life.)
- Armor-Piercing Question: At the end of "No Way," Catherine of Aragon asks Henry if, truly, she's been a bad wife in any way, if he has any justifiable reason for not wanting her around anymore.Catherine: If you can just explain a single thing I've done to cause you pain I'll go. [beat] No?
- Badass Boast:
- Near the end of "Ex-Wives," Catherine Parr gives one as she declares, "I'm the Survivor, Catherine Parr!" at the end of her verse.
- Anne of Cleves' song, "Get Down," is one long badass boast about how she was able to get riches from her divorce with Henry VIII.
- At the end of "No Way," Catherine of Aragon declares that, no matter what Henry does or says, she'll always be the true Queen of England, just as she did in real life. And, indeed, for the rest of Catherine's life, pretty much everyone in Europe agreed with her.
- Bad Girl Song: "Dont Lose Ur Head," for Anne Boleyn and, "All You Wanna Do," for Katherine Howard. In the latter's case, it's deconstructed, as it becomes the story of a young woman who has been treated like a sex object since her childhood, and doesn't know anything else.
- Betty and Veronica:
- Catherine of Aragon and Jane Seymour are both the Betty to Anne Boleyn's Veronica.
- Anne of Cleves is the Betty to Katherine Howard's Veronica.
- Bilingual Bonus:
- A Pun during "Haus of Holbein": "Ignore your fears and you'll be fine. We'll turn this vier into a nine." note
- Bittersweet Ending: The women can't change history, or how their stories ultimately ended. Most of them were utterly miserable for most of the time they knew Henry, and most met tragic ends. To add insult to injury, most people in the years to come only know who they are because of Henry. (And Bloody Mary and Elizabeth I, in Catherine of Aragon's and Anne Boleyn's case.) But at least they got a chance to tell their stories on their terms, retaking the narrative for a time, and the show ends with them presenting a happier, alternate world where they never married Henry and wound up happier for it.
- Blatant Lies: One of Henry's given reasons for wanting to divorce Catherine of Aragon is that, since she was married to his brother first, the Bible says she'll never bear him children. Except, as Catherine points out, they have a kid.Daughters are so easy to forget.
- Blue Is Heroic / True Blue Femininity: Catherine Parr was a writer, and she fought for female education as she explains in her number, "I Don't Need Your Love."
- The Bluebeard: Henry VIII is this by the technicality that he had been married six times, and three of his marriages ended in death (One from childbirth, two from his own actions). The other half survived this fate but still died at later dates, with Catherine Parr and Anne of Cleves dying a year and a decade after him respectively.
- Break the Cutie: The first part of "All You Wanna Do" is happy and carefree as Katherine Howard enjoys her flings (as the audience squirms in discomfort, given her age). But by the end, she's sick of the way men treat her, and kicking herself for not catching on sooner.Why did I think he'd be different?!
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: Anne Boleyn may be this. She appears to be a carefree ditz (if spiteful and self-absorbed) throughout the show, but rattles off a scathing criticism of how useless measuring the Queens against each other is, and caps it off with "Yeah. I read." In real life, she received a first-rate education compared to Tudor standards for women.
- Chewing the Scenery: Katherine Howard, when roasting the other queens.Katherine Howard: (to Jane Seymour) Dying of natural causes? WHEN WILL JUSTICE BE SERVED?!
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: The six wives of Henry VIII wear costumes with black and their signature color. Their signature color is also sometimes used as lighting.
- Catherine of Aragon: Yellow/Gold
- Anne Boleyn: Green
- Jane Seymour: White/Silver
- Anne of Cleves: Red
- Katherine Howard: Pink/Purple
- Catherine Parr: Blue
- Even the alternate/swing Queens have their own signature colors and unique costumes, rather than wearing copies of the main cast costumes:
- Vicki Manser/Nicole Kyoung-Mi Lambert: Light Blue/Turquoise
- Grace Mouat/Mallory Maedke: Black
- Courtney Stapleton: Orange/Brown
- Commonality Connection: Anne Boleyn immediately begins a rapport with Katherine Howard upon realizing they were cousins who were both executed via decapitation.
- Cultural Translation: Some lines were altered for the American production. See the notes for original wording.
- "Waitnote , what was I meant to do?"
- "Bronote , just shut up!"
- "Remember us from PBSnote ?"
- "Just friends,note no chemistry!"
- "I mean, look at me, I'm really hotnote ."
- Curse Cut Short:
Anne of Cleves: But I didn't look as good as I did in my pic. Funny how we all discuss that, but never Henry's little—Katherine Howard: Prick up your ears, I'm the Katherine who lost her head!
- Anne of Cleves, courtesy of Katherine Howard, in "Ex-Wives":
- After "Don't Lose Ur Head", Anne Boleyn wants to sing another song. She managed to get out, "Catherine was a MASSIVE -" before being drowned out by the other Queens.
- "Dear John" Letter: "I Don't Need Your Love" begins with Catherine Parr sadly writing to her lover (and eventual fourth husband), explaining that while she will always love him, and really, really doesn't want to marry Henry, she's got no choice in the matter.
- Deconstruction: All You Wanna Do does this to Katherine Howards typical portrayal as a promiscuous seducer of older men, by pointing out the fact that Katherine was a child when these men in their twenties or older had sexual relationships with her. While the song starts off with Katherine gleefully reminiscing her sexual history, as the song goes on she slowly reveals the trauma and low self worth she has from the sexual abuse she has suffered all her life and seems to realize that those men were using her.
- Desperately Craves Affection: Katherine Howard really just wants someone to love her, genuinely love her, not just use her for sex. She doesn't even need it to be romantic love; when she befriends Thomas, she's happy to have a confidant and friend that seems to genuinely care about her well-being. When she realizes he doesn't, she's devastated.
- Doom Magnet: Henry VIII is an offstage one. Becoming his wife is a recipe for misfortune. The only one to avoid this was Anne of Cleves, who accepted the annulment and got out of Dodge the second she could.
- Double Entendre:
I guess he must have..uh..really liked my head.
- After freaking out about Henry being serious of chopping her head off, Anne gives a Pre-Mortem One-Liner:
Helped him in his office, had a duty to fulfill.
- Katherine Howard, when discussing her affair with Francis Dereham.
He even let me use his favorite quill.
Spilled ink all over the parchment,
My wrist was so tired
We spent hours strumming the lute,
- Also with her music teacher, Henry Manox:
Striking the chords and blowing the flute,
He plucked my strings all the way to "G"...
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- Anne of Cleves had a completely different costume than what she has now.
- Catherine Parr's costume had slight alterations from what her current costume is.
- The buns in Anne Boleyn's hair were originally green, while Katherine Howard's hair wasn't dyed at all.
- And that's before we go into the costumes of the original cast◊.
- Fatal Flaw:
- Anne Boleyn's impulsiveness. Her hot temper and willingness to insult those that upset her, including Henry, ultimately get her beheaded.
- Katherine Howard's naïveté. Men continually use her for sex, and she keeps telling herself, this one is different, this one cares about her. Like Anne, this leads to her beheading.
- Fille Fatale: Deconstructed and played for tragedy with Katherine Howard. For all her promiscuity and flirtatiousness, at the end of the day she's a teenage girl who adult men use as a sex object. By the time she marries Henry, all she really wants is a friend, and she's heartbroken when she realizes Thomas Culpeper is actually being nice to her because he's trying to sleep with her.
- Four Is Death:
- Played straight with Katherine Howard. Her fourth sexual partner, Thomas Culpeper, is part of the reason why she is beheaded, as she explains in her number, "All You Wanna Do."
- Subverted with Catherine Parr. She wound up married four times in total, getting married for the fourth and final time after Henry VIII's death in 1547.
- Averted with Anne of Cleves. She was Henry VIII's fourth wife, and by far the most successful after her marriage to Henry ended as she explains in her number, "Get Down." Not to mention she outlived all of Henry's other wives.
- Funny Background Event:
- The Ghost: Henry VIII himself, who never appears in person.
- Subverted in the sense that he he is in the show. However...
- Gold-Colored Superiority: Catherine of Aragon, who still proudly held onto her title as Queen of England even after Henry annulled his marriage with her.
- Gold Digger: Snarkily referenced by Anne of Cleves, who insinuates that even if she didn't marry Henry for the money (especially since she didn't actually get a vote), she's not going to pretend it's not an advantage.Now, I ain't saying I'm a gold digger... but check my prenup, and go figure.
- Good Bad Girl: Katherine Howard is promiscuous (especially given her young age), but she's overall a good person.
- Graceful Ladies Like Purple / Princesses Prefer Pink: Katherine Howard.
- Gratuitous Foreign Language: Anne Boleyn grew up in the French court, so she gets a little bit of Gratuitous French. Anne of Cleves was from Germany, and thus, sometimes slips into Gratuitous German. Catherine of Aragon, from Spain, can sometimes slip into Gratuitous Spanish. "Haus of Holbein" is also loaded with German.
- Gut Punch: After not being particularly vocal for most of the show, Katherine Howard suddenly gets a 7 minute long solo detailing her short and incredibly traumatic life, with her sexual abuse by men in her life since the time she was 13 played completely straight. In a show filled with dark comedy for most of the more terrible things, her slow breakdown over the course of the song is incredibly hard to watch.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Jane Seymour, who in the show is portrayed by the blonde Natalie Paris, and despite her "Heart of Stone," is portrayed as a loving, caring wife and mother. She is also stated to be "the only one [Henry] truly loved."
- The Hedonist:
Sorry, not sorry 'bout what I said.
- Anne Boleyn, by her own admission, is just out to have a good time.
I'm just trying to have some fun!
Don't worry, don't worry, don't lose your head.
I didn't mean to hurt anyone.
- After the divorce, Anne of Cleves follows suit. "Get Down" is entirely her boasting about her decadent, independent lifestyle.
- Horrible Judge of Character: Katherine Howard, the poor girl. She simply cannot spot a bad guy to save her life — literally. Justified, since she's fifteen and, for all her sexual experience, rather naive and sheltered from the real world.
- Hot-Blooded: Anne Boleyn is very short-tempered, which ultimately proves to be her undoing.
- Hurricane of Puns: The opening song... wait, no, actually, the entire show. If you played a drinking game where you took a shot every time there was a pun, you'd be totally wasted by the end.
- I'm Standing Right Here:Jane Seymour: Jane Seymour, the only one he truly loved.
- Ironic Echo: Catherine of Aragon's big song is called "No Way," which is her response to Henry trying to divorce her. And what's the first line of the final number?He got down on one knee, but I said "No way!"
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Anne Boleyn is portrayed as the most flawed of the queens, being self-centered, reckless, and sometimes very rude, but she's not a bad person.
- Just Friends: Katherine Howard insists (with relief) that she and Thomas Culpeper are "just mates, no chemistry," and is delighted to have a best friend and then she finds out he's attracted to her.
- Lame Pun Reaction: Judging from her awkward laugh afterwards, even Jane realizes her "Royalling Stones" joke is pretty bad.
- The Loins Sleep Tonight: Anne accuses Henry of this in Dont Lose Ur Head, leading to her execution.
- Locked Away in a Monastery: As in history, Henry wanted to annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and send her to a nunnery. Her response was basically, "Over my dead body." In the finale, Catherine describes an alternate history where she rejected Henry's proposal, willingly went to the nunnery instead, and eventually met the others.
- Misery Poker: The entire show is this, since the wives are arguing over who had it the worst while they were married to Henry. They ultimately decide it doesn't really matter, and they've got to stop letting their stories be defined by Henry — but before that, Katherine Howard makes an admittedly really good case that she's the winner.
- Mood Whiplash:
- "Heart of Stone," a tearjerker power ballad, is smooshed in between the darkly hilarious "Don't Lose Ur Head," and the over-the-top "Haus of Holbein." This can lead to an... odd listening experience, at least until you're used to it.
- After the catchy and boastful "Get Down", and a very comedic scene in which Katherine Howard roasts all of the other queens for thinking that they'll win the contest, Howard's song "All You Wanna Do" starts as a happy bop and then proceeds to chart a young girl's life full of sexual exploitation starting from age 13 and ending with her being executed for what is implied to be a non-consensual relationship. And she's crying as the song ends. Yeah.
- Morality Pet: Downplayed. Jane is stated to be the only wife Henry really cared about, and her song indicates that he's affectionate to her and their son. But, as Jane herself realizes, Henry loves Jane because she gave him an heir, and if Edward were to die, he wouldn't love her anymore.
- Off with Her Head!: Well, the famous rhyme does mention that two queens got their heads chopped off: Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard. Anne Boleyn even claims Henry VIII said this about her directly.
- One Steve Limit:
- Averted, as in history. Three Katherines (or Catherines, whichever), and two Annes. Anne of Cleves sometimes goes by Anna, though. Played straight with Jane Seymour.
- Incidentally, there's also Henry VIII and Henry Manox.
- Only Sane Man: Catherine Parr, for being the one to realize that the competition is stupid and that her story shouldn't be about Henry.
- Subverted when the Queens sarcastically hint that the competition was faked all along.
- Proud Beauty: Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard make comments showing themselves as such in Ex-Wives and All You Wanna Do, respectively.Anne Boleyn: Im that Boleyn girl and Im up next, see I broke England from the Church. Yeah, Im that sexy!Katherine Howard: I think we can all agree: Im the ten amongst these threes.
- Rhetorical Question Blunder:"What could be worse than a broken heart?"
"A severed head."
- Running Gag: Catherine of Aragon has a habit of saying something along the line of "That's me!"
- Screw This, I'm Out of Here!:
But why should that story be the one I have to sing about? Just to win? I'm out!
- Anne of Cleves' mentality after Henry offers to divorce her. She did, and wound up with a large sum of wealth that allowed her to live independently for the rest of her life.
- Catherine Parr has this mentality when the competition to become the group's lead singer goes too far.
- The musical style in general is very evocative of girl groups and female pop stars: from Britney Spears to Destiny's Child to Little Mix to Charli XCX to Beyoncé.
- Katherine Howard claims she was "13 Going on 30" when she allegedly lost her virginity to Henry Manox.
- She also refers to Henry Manox as "Music Man" during "Six".
- "Get Down" has the line, "Okay, ladies, let's get in reformation."
- It also has, "I ain't saying I'm a gold digger "
- Catherine Parr declares, "I'm the survivor."
- In "I Don't Need Your Love", the melody she sings all the women/could independently study scripture on comes from Independent Woman
- "You could perhaps call us the Tudor Von Trapps. I'm just kidding. We're called The Royalling Stones."
- "All You Wanna Do" has an extremely similar beat, hook, and riff to "Womanizer" by Britney Spears.
- The opening rhyme is very similar to the intro to Cell Block Tango.
- Jane Seymour also gets the line "stick around and you'll suddenly see more."
- Anne Boleyn calls herself "that Boleyn girl".
- Anne sings the first line of "Wannabe".
- Silk Hiding Steel: "Heart of Stone" is all about this trope, with Jane singing that no matter what comes her way, no matter what Henry puts her through, she can take it, and is still going to be standing in the end.
- Sophisticated as Hell: Ah, Anne Boleyn She was extremely well-educated and boasts of having grown up in the French court, but also has such gems as, "Everybody chill, it's totes God's will."
- Teacher/Student Romance: Katherine Howard's relationship with Henry Manox, her music teacher, although he can be interpreted as a younger (by today's life spans) Dirty Old Man, given that she was 13. This doesn't stop Katherine from pulling a double entendre."He was twenty three and I was thirteen going on thirty".
- Triumphant Reprise: "Megasix," has a brief, jubilant reprise of each queens song, but ends on a particularly poignant one for "Ex-Wives".The Wives: We dont need your love! Were so much more than...Catherine of Aragon: Divorced!Anne Boleyn: Beheaded!Jane Seymour: Died!Anna of Cleves: Divorced!Katherine Howard: Beheaded!Catherine Parr: Survived!The Wives: Were SIX!
"It's the end of the show, of the historemix
- The finale, "Six," also has a variant of the "Ex-Wives" reprise:
We switched up the flow, and we changed the prefix
Everybody knows that we used to be six wives
But we wanna say before we drop the curtain
Nothing is for sure, nothing is for certain
All that we know is that we used to be six wives !
- True Companions: "Six," the closing number, imagines a world where the women never married Henry, and instead met and became friends and a girl group!
- The Unapologetic: Anne Boleyn, proudly so. She insists she meant no harm, but also refuses to apologize for everything she said and did, even as it got her killed.
- "The Villain Sucks" Song: "I Dont Need Your Love," and its reprisal in "Megasix" are both essentially this for Henry VIII, though "Ex-Wives" and "Six" also qualify.
- What Could Have Been: In-Universe, the final number has the women describing what their lives could've been if they'd never married Henry. All of them would've been happier.
- Win-Win Ending: The Queens realize this competition was stupid and decide to all become the, "leading lady." Then they offhandedly reveal that they faked the competition the whole time, complete with an Aside Glance towards the audience.
- Worth It: At the end of "Don't Lose Ur Head," Anne Boleyn is still as defiant as ever, even after it becomes clear she'll be killed.
- You Gotta Have Blue Hair: Katherine Howard's hot pink ponytail and, early on, Anne Boleyn's neon green space buns.
- You Need to Get Laid: Anne Boleyn says as much, about herself, during Dont Lose Ur Head:Anne: Mate, just shut up! I wouldnt be such a bitch if you could get it up.