SIX at Shea’s brings ten high-energy women to an eighty-minute romp

THE BASICS:  SIX, a musical, by Toby Marlow and Lucy Ross, part of the M&T Bank 2022-23 Broadway Series at Shea’s, runs for two weeks! Apr 25 – May 7, 2023, Tuesdays – Fridays at 7:30, Saturdays at 2:00 and 8:00, Sundays at 1:00 and 6:30. Shea’s Buffalo Theatre 646 Main Street Buffalo, NY 14202 716-847-1410

Recommended for ages 10+ 

RUNTIME: 80 minutes with no intermission!

THUMBNAIL SKETCH:  SIX, the Broadway musical at Shea’s is a modern retelling of the lives of the six wives of Henry VIII, who were, in order, as every British school child learns “divorced, beheaded and died, divorced, beheaded, survived.”  They were Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Ann of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr.  No longer just Tudor Queens, they are now pop icons who sing in the style of “queens of pop” Beyoncé, Rihanna, Adele, Sia, and MANY more.  For 80 minutes, the SIX wives of Henry VIII put on a pop concert backed by a kick-ass four-woman band as they take the microphone to remix five hundred years of historical heartbreak (who suffered the most?) into “a celebration of 21st-century girl power!”  

THE PLAYERS, THE PLAY, AND THE PRODUCTION: Right away, let me tell you that I’ve rarely heard more music out of four people than the women in the on-stage band for SIX: Conductor Lena Gabrielle and her fabulous keyboard (Phij Adams and Randy Cohen, techs), Caroline Moore and her heart-stopping drums, Sterlyn Termine, and her thumpin’ bass, and Liz Faure and her fine collection of guitars.  I know I’m not alone in that opinion because after the show as the musicians left the stage, they received a spontaneous round of applause.

The individual songs are inspired by a long list of pop stars (see below) but the group numbers, especially the opening “Six Wives” and the closing “Six,” had catchy rhythms that reminded me of the musical HAMILTON.  In fact, as HAMILTON did in 2016, the musical SIX won a Tony Award in 2020 for Best Original Score. 

The SIX queens are dressed in highly stylized, wasp-waisted, very leggy costumes (Gabriella Slade, 2020 Tony Award for SIX for “Best Costume Design for a Musical”) the better to show off their spirited dance moves (Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, choreographer).  The set is surprisingly static for a Broadway tour and is quite constrained to the front of the stage, but that just focuses your attention on the ladies.  I mention the set to remind all the high school musical kids who come to the show that it’s not the set, but rather, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet said: “The play’s the thing.”  And this is one non-stop entertainment.

This musical had its start at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and then was presented in the West End (of London) so early audiences would have been more familiar with the six wives of Henry VIII.  You don’t need to know your British history to enjoy SIX, but I highly recommend visiting Shea’s website and clicking through all the background material offered, including a study guide and links to the original Broadway cast recording.  That pre-show web-browsing advice goes for any of Shea’s Broadway touring shows, but especially here, because to cover about 40 years of British history in 80 minutes means things move along quickly.

If you don’t do your history homework before you go (or as they say during the show you haven’t been watching PBS) you’ll get a “second chance” once in your seat because pages 17 and 18 of the playbill give a quick summary (which is previewed on the website here.) 

As the musical progresses, we are presented with solos by the six queens in the order (which is repeated often) “divorced, beheaded and died, divorced, beheaded, survived.”  And they are Catherine of Aragon (whose “Queenspirations” are Beyoncé and Shakira); Anne Boleyn (Queenspirations Lily Allen and Avril Lavigne); Jane Seymour (Adele and Sia); Anne of Cleves (Nicki Minaj and Rihanna); Katherine Howard (Ariana Grande and Britney Spears); and Catherine Parr (Alicia Keys and Emeli Sandé).  

There are six cast members and five alternates.  The six regular cast members are (in order, you DO remember that by now, no?) Gerianne Pérez, Zan Berube, Amina Faye, Terica Marie, Aline Mayagoitia, and Sydney Parra.  On the night we went, Taylor Pearlstein was in for Sydney Parra as Catherine Parr and if we hadn’t looked at the board in the lobby (see photo), we wouldn’t have known because the entire team is so strong.  It goes to show that whatever night (or afternoon) you go, you’ll get a great performance.

Next on Shea’s Broadway Tour lineup is JAGGED LITTLE PILL (June 6-11) followed by DEAR EVAN HANSEN (June 20-25).  But before those come, on the other nearby Shea’s stages, KINKY BOOTS will be at Shea’s 710 Theatre from May 4-21, TICK, TICK…BOOM! will be at Shea’s Smith Theatre (May 19-28), and Starring Buffalo will present Buffalo’s own Michele Ragusa in HELLO, DOLLY! at Shea’s 710 (June 2-3 only).  

*HERD OF BUFFALO (Notes on the Rating System)

ONE BUFFALO: This means trouble. A dreadful play, a highly flawed production, or both. Unless there is some really compelling reason for you to attend (i.e. you are the parent of someone who is in it), give this show a wide berth.

TWO BUFFALOS: Passable, but no great shakes. Either the production is pretty far off base, or the play itself is problematic. Unless you are the sort of person who’s happy just going to the theater, you might look around for something else.

THREE BUFFALOS: I still have my issues, but this is a pretty darn good night at the theater. If you don’t go in with huge expectations, you will probably be pleased.

FOUR BUFFALOS: Both the production and the play are of high caliber. If the genre/content are up your alley, I would make a real effort to attend.

FIVE BUFFALOS: Truly superb–a rare rating. Comedies that leave you weak with laughter, dramas that really touch the heart. Provided that this is the kind of show you like, you’d be a fool to miss it!

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