The much-anticipated Six the Musical blew the Sunshine State away on Brisbane Opening Night, presenting its one act empowering tapestry of pop queendom.
Complete with an instant standing ovation, the West End and Broadway smash sensation belts its way into the beating heart of Brisbane at QPAC’s Playhouse Theatre. The compelling ‘herstory’ written by Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow that surrounds King Henry VIII and his six wives is told in an innovative and daring light.
The female perspective is brought to the surface as the Queens retell their stories of how the King wrongfully treated them and finally set the record straight of who should lead the ‘band’ by determining who had the worst to withstand. All perfectly produced through the lens of sensational costumes, choreography and insightful pop, hip-hop and soulful performances.
The first wife Catherine of Aragon is embodied by the sassy, sensational star of belting, Phoenix Jackson Mendoza. Phoenix has an incredible stage presence as the Queen the King got shipped over from Spain and the first wife he divorced. She commands the room as soon as you hear the crescendo of her solo number ‘No Way’. This big number is an absolute powerhouse treat for the senses.
Phoenix’s character is inspired by Beyonce and Shakira and breaks it down to Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s intricate choreography that matches each of the unique styles for the different Queens. Aragon has Queen Bee militant, Latin influences and that is reflected in the incredible music and dance steps. She amusingly mentions ‘remember us from your ATAR’, the Queensland version of final exams.
Phoenix is raw, sarcastic, and gives the Girl Boss energy in this beast of a role and bounces off the other Queens brilliantly. Phoenix has risen from the ashes and is a star to watch.
The iconic and legendary Anne Boleyn is intoxicatingly portrayed by Kala Gare. Kala candidly plays Boleyn like she is her best friend. A cheeky Queen that has the ‘I don’t give an f***’ personality and which makes Kala’s personification even more hilarious. Boleyn’s popular solo number ‘Don’t lose ur head’ was one of the most fun rockchick angst moments in the show.
Kala’s character is inspired by pop divas, Lily Allen and Avril Lavigne and in turn was a rebel of sorts when she married the King. Boleyn broke England from the Church and moved in with the King while Aragon was still there. Kala has a shining confidence as she performs, and rock ‘n’ roll enthusiastic energy.
Kala’s dry Aussie wit and sarcasm is a definite highlight of the production, especially being the first Queen the King beheaded when they are comparing stories and Kala says, ‘Yeah, actually, come to think of it, there was this one really cute time where I had a daughter, and he chopped my head off.’ Kala has the special sauce that is unique and so bloody entertaining.
The King’s third wife switches gears a little with a more emotive, endearing performance by Loren Hunter as Queen Jane Seymour. Loren’s character died shortly following the birth of her son, which was a miracle in the 1500s to have a certified male succession to the throne. Jane Seymour’s sound in SIX takes elements of the pop heartbreak queens Adele and Sia.
Loren has a glorious voice, and the silence of the audience was unbreakable during her emotional ballad ‘Heart of Stone’, about Seymour’s undying love for Henry, despite his flaws. The song is heart-wrenching and gives voice to those who never give up on their desires and the people they love, especially during hard moments.
Loren has a beautiful, forgiving, and tender approach to her character. But when it comes to Jane Seymour’s son growing up without her, she acts like a mother with a vengeance as she argues with the other Queens. Loren is a superstar dynamo performer with incredible emotive sincerity in her scene work and absolutely assassinates her performances.
Of course, there is no European based musical without a glow-in-the-dark rave dance party, right? The vibes are high when the song ‘Haus of Holbein’ begins. The Queens come out with bright green glasses and white frill ruff collars. It is a hilarious number as they are dancing to the sick beat and play a mini 16th century style ‘Tinder game’ of sorts to find King Henry VIII a new wife over in Germany from the famous portrait artist, Hans Holbein.
Kiana Daniele takes on the cheeky, attention-seeking role of Anna of Cleves from Germany, that the King decides is his new Queen. Kiana is extraordinary as the character of Cleves, especially when she is rejected by the King for her ‘meager looks’ after liking her portrait and divorces her. Kiana owns the stage and dances joyously, embodying influences of Nicki Minaj and Rihanna.
Cleves’ moment in the spotlight is vivaciously realised in the hip-hop / R’n’b flavours of the song, ‘Get Down.’ Kiana so effortlessly nails the hip-hop, sassy dance and doesn’t let the King get her down. She plays up to the audience that she is hard done by. Then she says, ‘Just kidding, my life’s amazing’, as her self-confidence pours out and inspires people to stay positive when things don’t go to plan. Kiana’s sarcastic, fun-loving sexy persona is so compelling and invigorating to see. Kiana is a star and her career is thriving beautifully.
Taking inspiration from Ariana Grande and Britney Spears, Katherine Howard is prominently played by the incomparable, Chelsea Dawson. Chelsea breathes life into the youngest and most damaged, 5th wife of the King. Her persona with the other Queens is wonderfully sarcastic as she compares their fates with her own tragic beheading.
Chelsea begins the pop number ‘All you wanna do’ optimistically and blindly faithful that the men she had experiences with would treat her differently. Throughout each Chorus she gets more and more agitated talking about each man who was worse than the last. Two of the other Queens put a hand on her shoulders and each time she shrugs them off harder and can’t stand it by the conclusion of the four-chorus number.
Howard is beheaded due to her promiscuity outside of wedlock. Chelsea has the fire in her to belt this tune with such passion and emotional vulnerability. The song portrays the emotional, mental and physical abuse Howard endured throughout her life from different men and King Henry VIII, which led to her ‘off with her head’ moment. Chelsea is the perfect performer to convey the strength and courage to tell Howard’s story.
Vidya Maken plays the ultimate survivor and 6th but final wife, Catherine Parr. Vidya has a spirit and charisma that is gorgeous to see on stage as her character fulfills her potential in bringing all SIX Queens together. She employs them to stop comparing and contrasting abuse and ridicule that the same man dished out to all of them.
Taking notes from the sounds of Alicia Keys and Emeli Sande, the ultimate taking back your life song, ‘I don’t need your love’ is born. At first the slow musical number is Parr writing a letter to the man she truly loves and can’t be with as the King chose her as his next leading lady. Vidya as Parr emphasizes the pressure women were put under at that time to have a husband or be ostracized from the community, as she was married before with no choice in the matter.
Vidya’s portrayal of Parr is second-to-none as the strong but vulnerable, independent survivor from a man that left an unfortunate legacy. Her voice is out-of-this-world. The camaraderie of all the Queens is inspiring and the energy they share is pure magic to witness.
Not only is SIX, a worldwide fan phenomenon and success story, but it also presents all walks of life with glittering enjoyment and the notion of self-love. From the unexpected hilarious one-liners, incredibly gifted all-female band, the irrefutable and immense talent of the musical theatre powerhouse cast, the music that belongs in all the hottest dance clubs in town or the much-needed message to support one another despite your differences. SIX is a show-stopping party night out and a fabulous pop ‘herstory’ concert experience you never knew you needed, don’t miss it Brisbane.