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 made its United States debut at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater in May of 2019, with that production moving to Boston that August. That production's cast has moved to Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre with previews beginning on February 13th, 2020. Opening night was originally set to be March 12, 2020, but unfortunately, the shutdown of Broadway caused by the emerging COVID-19 Pandemic left the musical's fate uncertain for a good long while. It was eventually announced in May 2021 that Six would resume previews on September 17, 2021, with its official opening set for October 3.
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.
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!
- Abhorrent Admirer: Catherine Parr considers Henry this; she's already in love with another man and doesn't want to be forced to be with another only because he's the King.
- 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 (much like Katherine in real life) takes the stance that it wasn't.
- Adaptational Dumbass: Anne Boleyn was historically an incredibly intelligent woman, though the show makes her a considerably ditzier character. However, the Queens' sarcastic hints about the show being staged, as well as Anne's line about patriarchal structures, throw this into question: Anne might just be playing a ditzy homewrecker, the popular image of her.
- Adult Fear:
- Katherine Howard's life is the very definition of what people fear when getting involved with potentially predatory men, and the fact that she was thirteen when it started only amplifies this.
- Jane Seymour losing her "idyllic-compared-to-the-other-queens" life in one fell swoop with her death by childbirth.
- Catherine Parr being forced to abandon her love.
- Catherine of Aragon and Anna of Cleves' mutual fate of being "shipped over from a foreign country, not knowing a word of English, to marry some random dude."
- AM/FM Characterization: Heaps. Aragon belts a Beyonce-inspired power ballad to show her strength and courage, Seymour gets a tearful ballad, and nineteen-year-old Howard sings about her struggles to an upbeat bubblegum pop rhythm.
- Am I Just a Toy to You?: Katherine Howard's Heel Realization about the men who abused her when she was younger, realising that none of them cared about her in the end.
- Arc Words: "We have a connection," for Katherine Howard throughout, "All You Wanna Do."
- 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?
- Artistic License History:
- In her song "No Way", Catherine mentions that Henry found a verse that states that she should be barren for the rest of her life because she married the brother of her dead husband, with Catherine pointing out that Mary exists. In reality, Henry consulted with theological experts who told him that Henry childless actually meant that no surviving sons would be produced from such a marriage.
- The musical follows the popular myth that Anne Boleyn was the one who prompted Henry's idea to get divorced from Catherine, in reality there were rumors in court of Henry wanting a divorce as early as 1520 (Henry met Anne in as late as 1527), but this was probably nothing more than mere court gossip based on no fundamental facts, but it's believed that during the 1520's Henry was seriously considering an annulment with Catherine, considering that physicians, either in 1524 or 1525, told Henry that Catherine was unlikely to give birth again these dates may be correct.
- "Greensleeves" was not actually about Anne Boleyn. And, PR missteps notwithstanding, politics very much were her thingshe was an important figure in English-French relations and religious matters. On the other hand, she might have meant that she just wasn't good at it. One of those PR missteps was completely alienating her mother's old money family from her faction.
- Anne also didn't "flirt with a guy or three just to make him jel", what actually happened was that Anne had been charged with treasonable conspiracy to procure the kings death, a charge supported by details of adultery. On the day of her execution Anne swore on the sacrament that she was innocent, both before consuming it, and once again afterward, this is because people in the Tudors period believed that lying before God merited instant damnation meaning that had she been guilty, Anne would never have falsely sworn her innocence right before meeting her Maker.
- Anna of Cleves and her brother William of Jülich-Cleves-Berg pressed Henry to remarry her after the execution of Katherine Howard. Henry quickly refused, though.
- In "Six", Anne Boleyn's fantasy of her life if she'd rejected Henry not only has her writing "Greensleeves" (as previously noted, despite the urban legend, it wasn't written about her and is in fact Elizabethan in origin) but becoming Shakespeare's lyricist. Anne would have been 63 when Shakespeare was born, and likely in her 80s before he wrote anything, let alone became famous. Life expectancies simply weren't that long back then; Anne's own daughter Elizabeth I died at 69.
- Though this could serves as a Genius Bonus, as her daughter, Queen Elizabeth, supported William Shakespeare and his work.
- "Haus of Holbein" has the line "You bring the corsets, we'll bring the cinches/No one wants a waist over nine inches". During the 16th century, the corset was not actually used to cinch the waist- rather, it was used to mold the torso into a more cylindrical shape and raise the bustline. The extreme tight-lacing to create a tiny waist didn't become fashionable until the 19th century.
- Aside Glance: The conceit of the show is that it's a concert, so the queens often speak directly to the audience, but the moment in the climax where they're lamenting how awesome it would have been if they'd only realized how reductive it is to compare them, then all cheekily look to the audience... it counts.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Anne Boleyn shows signs of this, notably missing her cue to begin her solo because she's fooling around on her phone.Anne: Wha ? Oh, sorry!
- The Baby of the Bunch: Katherine Howard, as she was only 18/19 when she died.
- 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 as a sex object since her childhood, and doesn't know anything else.
- *Beat*: While talking about Thomas Culpeper, Katherine sings "He says we have a connection..." Then the music stops for a moment before picking up with "I thought this time was different/Why did I think he'd be different?"
- Berserk Button: Never try to include children when telling a sobbing story to make yourself look miserable in front of Jane Seymour. Catherine of Aragon learns it the hard way when she tries to make her story with Henry "more horrible" by talking about the time he forbade her to see her daughter, Mary, when she was sick.Catherine of Aragon: Ok, alright. Well now live up to this, when my one and only child had a raging fever, Henry didnt even let meher mother!see her!Jane Seymour: OH, BOO-HOO! Baby Mary had the chickenpox and you werent there to hold her hand! You know, its funny because when I wanted to hold my newborn son, I DIED!
- Better Than a Bare Bulb: Not only did the queens all die centuries before modern pop concerts were a thing, but it is specifically pointed out that not only did Jane die after her son was born, but that Anne Boleyn's and Katherine Howard's claim to fame (and argument for winning the contest) is that Henry had them both beheaded, and Anne mentions writing a song about Catherine of Aragon's death. No attempt is made to explain how they can give pop concerts despite being dead.
- Anne Boleyn: Yeah, what a weekend! I'm, like, dead.Katherine Howard: Wait, didn't you actually die?Anne Boleyn: Yeah, it was so extra.
- 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.
- Beware the Nice Ones:
- Jane Seymour is portrayed as the most innocent and demure of Henry's wives, but right before Catherine Parr's number she gives a big "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Catherine of Aragon after the latter tries to spin a sob story about not being able to be in the room when her daughter Mary had a childhood illness, when Jane could never be with her son because of her Death by Childbirth. Then, she starts tackling Katherine Howard, screaming as she does so.
- Katherine Howard is more subdued earlier on in the show, but when the other queens tease her for being the least-remembered Katherine (spelling variants aside) of Henry's reign, she gives an excellent "The Reason You Suck" Speech to each queen that stops them all cold.
- Bilingual Bonus: An excellent double-sided Pun during "Haus of Holbein": "Ignore the fear and you'll be fine. We'll turn this vier into a nine." "Vier" is German for "four", but pronounced like the English word "fear". Meanwhile, "nine" is English, but pronounced like "nein", the German word for "no". Translating the words to match in either language make the sentence make sense, but with radically different meanings.
- 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. (Also because of Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I, in Jane Seymours, Catherine of Aragon's, and Anne Boleyn's cases.) 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 most of them never married Henry and wound up happier for it. (Jane Seymour's happy ending still involves marrying him, but living to see her son grow up, having more kids, and getting to befriend the other women while also forming a family band with her kids.)
- Black Comedy: And lots of it. Beheading-related jokes abound.
- 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. note Daughters are so easy to forget.
- Made especially ironic when one remembers that before Mary's birth, Catherine did present her husband with a living male heir - Henry, Duke of Cornwall. The little boy only lived two months, but he still existed.
- 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 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.
- Brainy Brunette:
- Anne Boleyn historically, and at least a little during the musical. She was dark-haired and by all accounts brilliant.
- Catherine Parr, an intelligent author who fought for female education, has been consistently portrayed by actresses with black or brown hair.
- 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.
- Coincidentally, almost all of her actresses have depicted her with hair up in space buns, which vaguely look like bunny ears.
- Chewing the Scenery: Katherine Howard, when roasting the other queens.Katherine Howard: (to Jane Seymour) Dying of natural causes? WHEN WILL JUSTICE BE SERVED?!
- Colorblind Casting: The queens were, historically, all thin white women, but the casting call specifically states that it welcomes "all self-identifying female and non-binary performers, as long as they are comfortable playing female roles," regardless of size, shape, ethnicity, etc.
- 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
- Catherine Parr: Blue
- Even the alternate/swing Queens have their signature colors and unique costumes, rather than wearing copies of the main cast costumes. So far, there are four Alternate Costume variants: black, light blue/turquoise, orange, and purple. Anddepending on the production, the actress, or even the Queen shes playingeven those are varied differently.
- Commonality Connection: Anne Boleyn immediately begins a rapport with Katherine Howard upon realizing they were cousins who were both executed via decapitation.
- Corrupt the Cutie: Henry Mannox and Francis Dereham to Katherine Howard, who was a naïve (albeit flirtatious) adolescent at the time they slept with her.
- Creator Cameo: More accurately, "Creator Guest Appearance," as on July 28, 2019, had Six's composer Toby Marlow step in as "Catherine Parr" when Maiya Quansah-Breed (the normal actress for Parr) was on vacation, two understudies had colds, and the third was already playing Jane Seymour that day.
- Cue Card Pause: Katherine Howard does this deliberately as a Stealth Insult:Katherine: Your lives sounded terrible! And your songs. [*Beat*.] REALLY helped to convey that!
- Cultural Translation: Some lines were altered for the American production. See the notes for the 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 ."
- "His temper's short and his friendsnote are sleazy."
- Curse Cut Short:
- Anne of Cleves, courtesy of Katherine Howard, in "Ex-Wives":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!
- 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.
- Anne of Cleves, courtesy of Katherine Howard, in "Ex-Wives":
- Deadpan Snarker: All of the Queens (with the possible exception of Jane Seymour) are this to an extent, but Katherine Howard is especially snarky. Particularly apparent in her roast of the other Queens before "All You Wanna Do:"Katherine Howard: And Jane—dying of natural causes. WHEN WILL JUSTICE BE SERVED?!
- "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.
- Death by Childbirth: Jane Seymour. Though not covered in the musical, historically Catherine Parr would die this way as well.
- 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 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.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Katherine (supposedly) doesn't see anything wrong with the fact that she was thirteen to Henry Manox's twenty-three, and a sixteenth-century audience likely wouldn't have either; it gets a 21st-century audience squirming in discomfort.
- Desperately Craves Affection: Katherine Howard 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 who seems to genuinely care about her well-being. When she realizes he doesn't, she's devastated.
- Disproportionate Retribution: To say Henry overreacted to the (alleged) adultery of his second and fifth wives is a vast understatement. This is why much of history remembers him as The Bluebeard.
- 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 Mannox:
Striking the chords and blowing the flute,
He plucked my strings all the way to "G",
From major to minor, C to D.
- Dude Magnet: Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard claim this about themselves.
- 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◊.
- Ephebophile: Henry Mannox, Francis Dereham, and Henry VIII. Thankfully, the show condemns their behaviour while portraying Katherine Howard as a very sympathetic victim.
- Fatal Flaw:
- Anne Boleyn's impulsiveness alongside her strong opinions. 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.
- Foreshadowing: During the queens' introduction, Parr says, "The winning contestant was the most protest-tant! [*Beat*] Protestant." She would be the first to protest against the entire competition. However, it's revealed that the queens faked the competition in the first place, as a form of protest against the public version of their story and the patriarchal tendency to pit women against each other. That means, in a way, all of them were protestant contestants, and "all [became] the leading lady".
- 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. Eventually played straight in real life, however, as Parr died after giving birth to her fourth husband's child.
- 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." She also outlived all of Henry's other wives (and Henry himself).
- Played very straight in that four of Henry's six marriages ended in death — he had Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard executed, Jane Seymour died of natural causes, and he died while married to Catherine Parr.
- Funny Background Event:
- Watch Katherine Howard's face just before she cuts off Anne of Cleves in "Ex-Wives."
- Catherine of Aragon's face as "Don't Lose Ur Head" progresses - which partially features the process of Aragon being replaced by Anne Boleyn.
- Anne Boleyn preening in a "that's me" fashion during the dialogue part of her introduction (before "Don't Lose Ur Head") then pretending she doesn't care by playing with her phone.
- The Ghost: Henry VIII himself, who never appears in person.
- However, he is in the show as "the clean-up kid".note
- 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 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.
- Graceful Loser: The other queens are quick to point out that Anna of Cleves's entire would-be argument that she had the worst time of being married to Henry consisted of bragging about how great her independent, single life was as his honorary "sister". She quickly concedes and shrugs it off with a cheerful (and still slyly boastful) "Oh, well. Back to the palace!"
- 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.
- Green and Mean: Subverted with Anne Boleyn. She's no villain, sure. Doesn't stop history from painting her as one as opposed to Catherine of Aragon, who she most definitely has a rivalry with in the show.
- Gut Punch: After not being particularly vocal for most of the show, Katherine Howard suddenly gets a 7-minute 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 throughout the song is incredibly hard to watch.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Jane Seymour 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."Other Queens: ...Rude!
- Hair-Trigger Temper: Henry, both historically and in the musical. He was rash, hot-tempered, and was quick to order the execution of his wives when they wronged him.
- Happily Married: Averted. None of Henry's wives seemed particularly content with their marriage, except for maybe Jane Seymour (who only realises he wasn't good for her in the musical), and Anna of Cleves (who wasn't married to him for long enough to feel more than stung when he rejected her to begin with, especially considering ironically the divorce turned out great for her).
- The Hedonist:
Sorry, not sorry 'bout what I said.
- Anne Boleyn, by her 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.
- Hidden Depths: Katherine Howard, surprisingly, seems to know who Henry V's wife was.
- Historical Domain Character: All the queens. Even the backing band counts, since they're named for the queens' real ladies-in-waiting.
- 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 wasted by the end.
- "I Am Great!" Song: Anna of Cleves' song, "Get Down," consists of Anna boasting about how great her life was after getting divorced from Henry VIII and getting rich while staying an honored member of his court from the divorce settlement.
- I'm Standing Right Here:Jane Seymour: Jane Seymour, the only one he truly loved.
- Intercourse with You: "All You Wanna Do"'s chorus has "please me, squeeze me, birds and the bees me".
- 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!"
- "Don't Lose Ur Head" has two. The first, and more obvious, is that Anne's taunting of her critics, telling them not to "lose their heads" (don't lose your temper / don't panic) gives way to the realisation that she is going to be decapitated. The second is her refrain of "What was I meant to do?": for the majority of the song, she uses it to abdicate all responsibility for the damage she did and poor choices she made, claiming that there was no other course of action. Once Henry is out for her blood, however, "what was I meant to do?!!" becomes a terrified cry as she desperately looks for a way to escape Henry's wrath.
- Katherine of Howard assesses each of her lovers with the refrain of "I think this one is different", showing her naiveté. At the end of the song once Culpeper rapes her and she realizes she's spent her entire life being used for sex, she twists it.I thought this time was different... why did I think he'd be different? But it's never, ever different!
- 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?
- 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.
- Lady in Red: Subverted with Anne of Cleves, who is historically seen as the ugly one.
- Lame Pun Reaction: Judging from her awkward laugh afterward, even Jane realizes her "Royalling Stones" joke is pretty bad.
- Light Is Good: Jane Seymour is Color-Coded for Your Convenience using white to represent her emotional and feminine personality.
- 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 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 at minimum a dubiously consensual relationship and at maximum rape. And she's crying as the song ends. Yeah.
- Morality Pet: Downplayed. Jane is stated to be the only wife Henry 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.
- Naïve Newcomer: Katherine Howard was seventeen when Henry started pursuing her, and she was neither well-educated nor rich. A lot of the controversy she caused as Queen was due to acting like the lower-class teenager she was.
- Named After Somebody Famous: A weird, meta example. Catherine Parr was likely named after Catherine of Aragon, which clashes uncomfortably with the musical's timeline (in which they're all the same age).
- Never My Fault: Anne Boleyn's troubles aren't all her fault, but she absolves herself for some of her more questionable decisions.What was I meant to do?
- No Fourth Wall: The queens are giving a concert, and are thus very aware of the audience and address them directly multiple times.
- Not Even Bothering with the Accent: Enforced by Moss and Marlow who wanted actresses to use their natural accents for productions in other parts of the world.
- No Sense of Personal Space: During the choruses of "All You Wanna Do", the other queens put their hands on Katherine Howard to represent the molestation she endured throughout her life. In the final chorus she tries to move away but they keep their hands in place until the song ends.
- 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.
- Oh, Crap!: After Anne Boleyn insults Henry to his face with "I wouldn't be such a bitch if you could get it up!", the other wives exclaim "uh-oh!" It's common for Anne's actress to change her body language from cocky to scared afterwards.And now he's going round like, "Off with her head!"Yeah, I'm pretty sure he means it...
- One Steve Limit:
- Averted, as in history. Three Katherines (or Catherines, whichever), and two Annes, though Anne of Cleves sometimes goes by Anna. Played straight with Jane Seymour.
- Incidentally, there's also Henry VIII and Henry Mannox.
- There are also three guys named Thomas that get mentioned: Thomas Cromwell (mentioned by Howard), Thomas Culpeper (also mentioned by Howard), and Thomas Seymour (mentioned by Parr).
- 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.
- OOC Is Serious Business: Anne Boleyn sings "Don't Lose Ur Head" with a light-hearted tone, so when the music halts and she professes, "I think he's actually going to chop my head off!" in a genuinely distressed voice, we know it's serious.
- The Paragon: Catherine of Aragon refers to herself as "paragon of royalty".Catherine of Aragon: My name is Catherine of Aragon. Was married 24 years. I'm a paragon of royalty
- Pink Heroine / Princesses Prefer Pink: Katherine Howard.
- Proper Lady: Jane Seymour, who is nurturing and feminine. Contrast with Anne Boleyn, who was more of a Spirited Young Lady.
- 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: Seriously, seriously, Anna, all jokes aside, being rejected for your looks legit sounds really rough. I wouldn't know anything about that.Katherine Howard: I think we can all agree: Im the ten amongst these threes.
- Race Lift: In the original West End cast, Catherine of Aragon and Anna of Cleves are black. Catherine Parr is mixed race (black and Latina).
- Their races are virtually the same in the Broadway cast, with the addition of Anne Boleyn being Asian and Katherine Howard being Latina.
- Rape as Backstory: Its revealed in All You Wanna Do that Katherine has been sexually assaulted her entire life, and it lead to her eventual beheading
- Rhetorical Question Blunder:Jane Seymour: What could be worse than a broken heart?Anne Boleyn: A severed head.
- Running Gag:
- Catherine of Aragon has a habit of saying something along the lines of "That's me!"
- Anne Boleyn brings up her beheading frequently.
- 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 has this mentality after Henry offers to divorce her. She accepted 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.
- Sexy Secretary: Katherine Howard says this word-for-word about Francis Dereham. Averted in that he's a pedophile, which isn't exactly the stuff of erotica.
- 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 Mannox.
- She also refers to Henry Mannox 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 melodic line for "And maybe this is it" is a pared-down version of the melodic line for "I dreamed a dream in time gone by" in "I Dreamed A Dream" from Les Misérables, which is also a young woman recounting being used and abandoned by a man whom she thought loved her but only wanted to use her for sex (and who eventually died because of the consequences).
- While the opening rhyme has existed since at least the 19th century, it's deployed here in a way that's 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.
- Catherine Parr proclaims, Every (Tudor) Rose Has Its Thorns.
- The backing percussion/clapping to the verses of "Don't Lose Ur Head" sound very similar to "Mickey" by Toni Basil.
- 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.
- Slut-Shaming: Averted. History tends to do this to Katherine Howard (for being sexually abused since she was thirteen) and Anne Boleyn (for not wanting sex with Henry).
- Smitten Teenage Girl: Katherine Howard was barely an adolescent when she engaged with her first two lovers (thirteen with Manox, and around fourteen or fifteen with Dereham), and seems to have been genuinely infatuated with them at the time. Unfortunately, they take advantage of this and start a sexual relationship long before she's ready.
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Katherine Howard was blessed with good looks, and she's aware of this, claiming to be "a ten among these threes". However, her beauty attracted the attention of a whole host of unwanted admirers, most of whom were several years her senior. When she was only a teenager, grown men were treating her as a sex object and pressuring her into a sexual relationship before she was ready. Even when she thought she had made a male friend, it turned out he was only being nice to her because he wanted to be her lover, and he ended up raping her.
- 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."
- Spirited Young Lady:
- Anne Boleyn, historically. She was intelligent, opinionated, quick-witted, charming, rich, and capable of playing several classical instruments and beating most men at cards.
- Also Katherine Howard - even though she wasn't particularly academic, she was very much spirited as well as charming and beautiful. According to historians, she was musically and artistically gifted as well.
- Stepford Smiler: Catherine of Aragon's monologue before "No Way" has her describing her rather Adult Fear-ridden life, with every traumatic event being followed by an increasingly-strained "Okay!" until she's saying it with a downright ghoulish smile. And then he announces his intent to divorce her.Catherine: And I'm like... No. Way.
- Sympathetic Adulterer:
- Anne Bolelyn admits she flirted with some men (and perhaps went further) when Henry began sleeping around, "just to make him jel." She's still portrayed sympathetically, mostly because Henry responded by killing her.
- Katherine Howard - justified because what happened with Culpeper was unambiguously rape in the musical. Historically, whether or not their encounter even happened is unknown.
- 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 thanCatherine 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 (except Jane Seymour) 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 anything 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.
- Wham Line: This spoken line of Catherine's during the "I Don't Need Your Love" segment reveals that the queens may have had a different motive regarding the competition."Yeah, 'cause then if we had realized we could've done something else...like maybe a fake competition to show everyone how messed up comparing us is."
- What Could Have Been: In-Universe, the final number has the women describing what their lives could've been if none of them but Jane Seymour (the only one who had a tender romantic relationship with him) 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.
- World of Snark: All the queens get some fantastic one-liners.
- 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, as noted above, Anne Boleyn's early 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.