All hail! The pop queens of SIX are back in Chicago for an epic royal homecoming in their national tour debut. With direction from Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage and the same creative team behind the show’s 2019 American debut at Chicago Shakespeare Theater and the Broadway production, the SIX tour is exhilarating and entertaining. Toby Marlow and Moss’s pop musical about the six wives of King Henry VIII remains a master class in original and concise musical theater storytelling.
The touring cast has the immense energy and vocal talent that 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 when she was married to Henry VIII. Each song draws inspiration from different female pop artists, ranging from Ariana Grande to Avril Lavigne, Beyoncé to Britney Spears, and more. Crucially, SIX also includes three group numbers, and the queens supply backing vocals for one another on their solos. Thus, it’s key to cast six knockout individual performers (and the tour has certainly found them), but the harmonies and the witty banter between queens are also strong. The queens kick off the show with raucous “Ex-Wives.” The energy and the vocal Olympics start at a ten-out-of-ten, and the six performers sustain that vibrancy the entire show (along with their band, the Ladies in Waiting).
As Catherine of Aragon, Khaila Wilcoxon brings brash energy and just the right amount of attitude to “No Way.” Wilcoxon has a powerful belt, and she deploys it wisely.
As the infamous Anne Boleyn, Storm Lever brings her naturally lighter tone and strategic use of speak-singing to “Don’t Lose Ur Head.” Lever’s choices elevate the song’s iconic pop punk nonchalance; “Everybody chill/it’s totes 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 only ballad in the show as her solo, and that means “Heart of Stone” needs a formidable performer to keep audiences engaged after the first few uptempo numbers. Jasmine Forsberg meets that challenge; she finds a resonant mix of sweetness and power in her delivery, and her ability to riff is dazzling.
Olivia Donalson’s deep alto lends itself well to Anna of Cleves’s “Get Down.” It’s a banger of a song, and Donalson understands the assignment.
Katherine Howard’s “All You Wanna Do” is a fascinating character study—it’s a bubble gum pop song that morphs into a narrative of real tragedy. Accordingly, it’s a feat for the performer—Didi Romero has to begin the number acting as if she has not a care in the world, and over the course of the song’s few minutes, she needs to flip the emotional switch to one of complete devastation. Romero does so easily; she follows the emotional arc of the song with authenticity and grace, and she crushes the vocal demands of the number.
Gabriela Carrillo brings a grounded and affable presence as Catherine Parr, who in the show aims to become a peacekeeper among the queens. She begins her solo number “I Don’t Need Your Love” with soulful softness, and she allows the arc of the song to build until she’s full-on belting towards the end. Carrillo’s performance is fantastic; her softer moments are never boring, but she finds a way to let the character’s presence become more commanding as she progresses through her solo.
The SIX tour is visually appealing. Emma Bailey’s set design gives the stage an intimate but stadium-like feel, placing the queens front and center. Tim Deiling’s lighting designs contribute to the concert vibe, and Gabriella Slade’s costume designs recall both a modern take on the 16th century and the pristine coordination of late ‘90s, early 2000s female power pop groups like the Spice Girls—each queen has a signature color. While SIX is not a dance-heavy show, Carrie-Anne Ingrouille’s choreography adds touches of whimsy in its anachronism. There’s just enough movement to add additional color and dynamics to each song.
SIX is a stellar royal theater homecoming. After such a long time away from live theater, it was magical to return to such an energizing, unique, modern, and just plain fun musical—and this touring cast of queens is more than ready to slay.
The Broadway In Chicago engagement of the SIX national tour plays the CIBC Theatre, 18 West Monroe, through July 3, 2022. Tickets are $39-$119, with select premium tickets available. Visit BroadwayInChicago.com.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus
Originally published on BroadwayWorld.com