If only all history—or rather “her-story”—could be as energetically entertaining as the musical “Six,” its “Aragon” national tour continuing at Segerstrom Hall in Orange County through June 25. Six female performers, portraying the six wives of Henry VIII through modern song, dance and imagined camaraderie, brighten the stage with queenly personalities as sparkly as their costumes, making “Six” a concert-style musical not to be missed!
The Tony-winning 2017 musical written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss takes melodic inspiration from a range of modern female singers, including Beyoncé, Shakira, Lily Allen, Avril Lavigne, Adele, Sia, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Ariana Grande, Britany Spears, Alicia Keys and Emili Sandé, not that you have to know any of these ladies to appreciate the music and clever lyrics of “Six” as each imagined queen tells her story in her own way.
Moreover, each of these “ex-wives” emits enough energy to light up neighboring South Coast Plaza, and that’s including the two amazing alternates on opening night—Erin Ramirez as Anne Boleyn and Kelly Denice Taylor as Catherine of Aragon—both bringing memorable verve and panache to their performances.
Often both tongue-in-cheek and cheeky, each of the queen’s pop- and hip-hop-inflected songs conveys why she should win the prize for sorriest ex-wife story, whether because she was divorced (Catherine of Aragon), beheaded (Anne Boleyn), died (Jane Seymour), lived (Anna of Cleves), beheaded (Katherine Howard) or survived (Catherine Parr)—as per a British schoolchildren’s rhyme, repeated in the opening ensemble number “Ex-Wives.”
“Don’t Lose Ur Head” sings Anne Boleyn (Ramirez), ironically and upbeat, while Katherine Howard (Courtney Mack) sings melancholically yet still upbeat of sex as the only connection men make with her in “All You Wanna Do.” Anna of Cleves (Olivia Donalson) is the only one who comes out on top in “Get Down,” about being relegated to her own castle after marriage because she turned out to be not as pretty to Henry as her painted portrait, or “profile picture,” as the song goes.
All the queens come together in song at the end “for five more minutes” to ditch the competition among them and declare themselves “one of a kind” both individually and combined in the song “Six.” In a way, one wishes those five minutes of reclaiming their collective voice had been extended to maybe fifteen minutes of further empowerment.
But one of the strengths of this high velocity musical is knowing when to quit, running a crisp 90 minutes—each one of which had the audience cheering, and not just by the many young women present. Huge applause was also deservedly bestowed on the rocking “ladies in waiting” band on stage (Conductor Valerie Maze on keyboard, Janetta Goines on bass, Rose Laguana on guitars and Paige Durr on drums). Moreover, the musical’s sound (designed by Paul Gatehouse) works exceptionally well for Segerstrom, not muffled as sometimes happens but loud and clear.
Confidently directed by Moss and Jamie Armitage—with fabulous choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, space-aged Tudoresque costuming by Gabriella Slade, bold lighting by Tim Deiling and textured scenic design by Emma Bailey—“Six” is a concert-like musical package you will lose your head over, no matter your age, gender, musical or even historical disposition. “Herstory” à la “Six” turns out to be not only more inclusive, but way more fun.
“Six” continues at the Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts, 600 Town Center Drive, Costa Mesa, through June 25. Tickets are $49 to $129 for performances Tuesday through Fridays at 7:30 p.m.; Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; and Sundays at 1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased online at SCFTA.orgor by calling the box office at (714) 556-2787. Run time is 90 minutes with no intermission.