SIX National Tour presented by Broadway in Chicago
Hi all ! The Queens of Pop from SIX are back in Chicago for an epic royal comeback on their first national tour. With the direction of Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage and the same creative team behind the show American debut in 2019 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater and Broadway production, the SIX Tour is equally exhilarating and entertaining. Toby Marlow and Moss’ pop musical about the six wives of King Henry VIII remains a masterclass in original, concise musical theater storytelling.
The touring cast has the immense energy and vocal talent SIX needs to really pack a punch. For the uninitiated, the show reimagines these six queens as a power pop girl group, and each queen sings a solo number to demonstrate the hardships she faced while married to Henry VIII. Each song is inspired by different female pop artists, ranging from Ariana Grande for April LavigneBeyonce at Britney Spears, and more. Crucially, SIX also includes three group numbers, and the queens provide each other with backing vocals on their solos. So recruiting six individual knockout performers is essential (and the tour certainly found them), but the harmonies and witty banter between the queens are equally strong. The queens kick off the show with raucous “ex-wives.” The energy and vocal Olympics start at ten out of ten, and the six performers maintain that vibrancy throughout the show (along with their band, the Ladies in Waiting).
Like Catherine of Aragon, Khaila Wilcoxon brings a fiery energy and just the right amount of attitude to “No Way”. Wilcoxon has a powerful belt and she deploys it to good effect.
Like the infamous Anne Boleyn, storm lever brings him a naturally lighter tone and strategic use of talking vocals on “Don’t Lose Ur Head”. Lever’s choices elevate the song’s signature pop punk nonchalance; “Everybody relax / It’s God’s will,” she sings at one point. But as we know with any good pop punk song, chill is never actually chill.
Jane Seymour has the show’s only ballad as a solo, which means “Heart of Stone” needs a terrific performer to keep audiences engaged after the first few uptempo numbers. Jasmine Forsberg take up this challenge; she finds a resonant mix of sweetness and power in her delivery, and her ability to riff is dazzling.
Olivia DonaldsonThe deep viola of lends itself well to Anna de Cleves’ “Get Down”. It’s a one-song banger, and Donaldson understands the mission.
Katherine Howard’s “All You Wanna Do” is a compelling character study – it’s a bubble gum pop song that turns into a tale of real tragedy. As a result, it’s a feat for the performer-Didi Romero has to start the number off acting like she doesn’t care about the world, and within the few minutes of the song, she has to flip the emotional switch to complete devastation. Romero does it easily; it follows the emotional arc of the song with authenticity and grace, and it crushes the vocal demands of the number.
Gabriela Carrillo brings a grounded and affable presence as Catherine Parr, who in the series aims to become a peacekeeper among queens. She begins her solo number “I Don’t Need Your Love” with soulful sweetness, and she allows the song’s arc to build until it’s flat out near the end. Carrillo’s performance is fantastic; her softer moments are never boring, but she finds a way to let the character’s presence grow more commanding as she progresses through her solo.
The SIX tour is visually appealing. Emma Baileythe scenography gives the scene an intimate but stadium feel, placing queens front and center. Tim DeilingLighting designs contribute to the ambience of the concert, and Gabriella SladeThe costumes recall both a modern take on the 16th century and the immaculate coordination of female power pop groups of the late 90s and early 2000s like the The Spice Girls-each queen has a signature color. Although SIX is not a dance performance, Carrie-Anne IngrouilleThe choreography of adds touches of fantasy to its anachronism. There’s just enough movement to add extra color and dynamics to every song.
SIX is a stellar homecoming of the Royal Theater. After such a long time away from live theater, it was magical to return to such an energizing, unique, modern and downright fun musical – and this touring cast of queens are more than ready to slay.
The Broadway In Chicago engagement of the SIX National Tour runs at the CIBC Theater, 18 West Monroe, through July 3, 2022. Tickets are $39-$119, with select premium tickets available. To visit BroadwayInChicago.com.
Photo credit: Joan Marcus
Review by Rachel Weinberg