Following an extended delay due to uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Six the Musical’s Australian tour has finally made its Brisbane debut at the QPAC Playhouse. The ideal production for history-buffs, a girls’ night out or those craving a bit of musical entertainment, this bite-sized 75-minute production is crammed full of stellar music, bedazzling costumes and a pop concert set designed, tied together by a historical tale together with messages of female empowerment and the one-track mind behind the character being portrayed on-stage. Six the Musical is certainly a historemix worth watching.
Six the Musical is a historical comedy, following the tragedy-stricken six wives of Henry VIII, the sextet whose fates can be summarised as ‘Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived’. Rather than being a period piece, it takes place in a post-modern concert hall in the afterlife, with the six putting on a production in hopes of the audiences helping determine who was dealt the worst hand – the biggest tragedy – the least desirable fate. The tale is weaved through six individual solos (with the other five serving as backing vocalists), alongside a few other group songs. Each song offers great diversity in tone, music style and lyrics to suit any interest, complemented by some genuinely hilarious banter between the lead cast. With a runtime of less than half of what is offered by many major musicals, it is a filler-free zone with a tightly-written narrative without a minute to lose.
While those who studied the life of Henry VIII in school or previous studies would perhaps take away a little more from the show than others, pre-reading or research is not a requirement. Outside of some general knowledge, everything you need to know about their fates is summarised in the first song “Six Wives”, with each solo number going into more detail about each featured individual, and their personality, and letting them shine outside of being just an ex-wife. Despite being a show about those who met tragic ends, the strong feminist messages were also positively weaved into the final tracks, encouraging people to look outside what one’s attention might be initially drawn to.
The six leads in Six the Musical are all fabulous, each bringing their distinct style, personality and charm to the forefront. The Brisbane cast included Phoenix Jackson Mendoza as Catherine of Aragon, Kala Gare as Anne Boleyn, Loren Hunter as Jane Seymour, Kiana Daniele as Anna of Cleves, Chelsea Dawson as Katherine Howard, and Vidya Makan as Catherine Parr. While they didn’t have vocal lines, the band were just as much a part of the cast as the lead actors, appearing on-stage with Claire Healy/Heidi Maguire on Keys, Kathryn Stammers on Drums, Debbie Yap on Guitar and Jessica Dunn / Ann Metry on Bass. The cast and band on stage during the performance I attended had such delightful chemistry on-stage and were perfectly in sync throughout. Combine that with flawless choreography and powerful, heavy-hitting vocals, and you have an experience that will stay in your mind for days, and possibly in your ears for weeks afterwards.
In the audiovisual department, the staging was en pointe. While a static set throughout the production, the clever use of lighting synchronised to the music and styled based on the specific song made the show a feast for the eyes from start to finish. Similarly, the costumes have become iconic, and not only do they look remarkable in promotional images, but they are also really eye-catching on stage. Audio levels however were a bit haphazard at times, with the music sometimes overpowering the cast and making them almost illegible, although for the most part was fine. I feel this is the case with many musical productions that make their way to the Playhouse, however.
Now, this is a point that would vary from person to person, group to group, but I would argue that for a 75-minute musical, Six the Musical may be seen as being a little bit on the pricier end. While it varies between sessions, the two price reserves for the Saturday matinee I attended were $155.00 for a majority of seats or $135.00 for side seats and those closer to the rear of the balcony. With Mary Poppins the Musical in the Lyric Theatre coming in at almost 3 hours long with a maximum ticket price (as of writing) of $129.90, it can feel a little bit dearer on the wallet. It could be argued that comparing the two is like comparing apples to oranges for several reasons, but it is something to consider with a lot of options on the market at the moment.
Pricing aside, Six the Musical is a fabulous musical to start the year off with, with consistently stellar music, phenomenal staging and impressive casting options. This production is an exemplar of how history can be taught in unique, memorable ways, but also highlights how new lights should be shone on historical figures and how their most often-told tales may be only one-sided and deserve more appreciation. If you find yourself in Brisbane until mid-February and are looking for a show, Six the Musical may not be the cheapest offering in the city, but it certainly offers a late-night or late-afternoon out to remember and is worthy of any must-watch bucket list!
Six the Musical is being performed at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre’s (QPAC) Playhouse until around mid-February 2023. For information on how to book tickets and for any other upcoming legs of the Australian tour, click HERE.