SIX The Musical

SIX-Australian-2021-Cast-Kala-Gare-Chelsea-Dawson-Kiana-Daniele-Loren-Hunter-Vidya-Makan-Phoenix-Jackson-Mendoza-photo-by-James-D-Morgan-Getty-ImagesOriginally written for a Cambridge University student production for the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival SIX has become something of a global pop phenomenon with a soundtrack achieving in excess of 450 million streams and a ridiculous 3 billion views on Tik Tok.

Australian producer Louise Withers was quick off the mark to secure the Australian and New Zealand performing rights for the show. She cast it with a sensational cast of young rising Australian triple threats, brought in the original creatives to stage the show, and surrounded them with a top line Australian creative team, including the brilliant Sharon Millerchip as Associate Director charged with the responsibility of keeping the production in tip top shape for an Australasian tour.

Canberra is the first stop in a National tour which will take in Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane as well as New Zealand. For this tour the production has been enhanced with additional lighting and setting to take advantage of the larger stages than the one in the Sydney Opera House Studio where the production played two Covid- interrupted sold-out seasons.

Brilliantly conceived, and wonderfully performed, SIX is presented in the form of a rock-concert in which the six wives of Henry V111 compete for the position of the band’s leader by trying to prove which of them had had the worst experience at the hands of Henry V111.

The competition takes place in a brilliantly lit Tudor-inspired setting in which both the wives, Catherine of Aragon (Phoenix Jackson Mendoza), Anne Boleyn (Kala Gare), Jane Seymour (Loren Hunter) Anna of Cleves (Karis Oka), Katherine Howard (Chelsea Dawson) and Catherine Parr (Vidya Makan), as well as the all-female band led by Clair Healey, are costumed in glittering futuristic steam-punk-with-a-Tudor-twist outfits designed by Gabriella Slade.

Each costume holds the clues to the status of the various wives. For instance Anne Boleyn and Katherine Howard both wear chokers to signify their beheading while Jane Seymour’s black and white corset alludes to half-timbered houses.

The costumes also provide clues to the tuneful score for which the songs through which the various wives tell their stories are modelled on those of modern-day pop princesses, among them Beyoncé, Sia, Adele, Rihanna and even Celine Dion.

Anne Boleyn wears a green costume to reference the myth that Henry V111 composed Greensleeves for her. Greensleeves becomes a recurring motif throughout the show. She also wears space buns to signal her character’s songs are rooted in those of Miley Cyrus. Younger members of the audience presumably pick up these signals immediately. Others might find Wikipedia helpful.

After a stunning opening number in which the six wives introduce themselves, Phoenix Jackson Mendoza, who plays Catherine of Aragon, and who’s aunt, Natalie Mendoza, is currently starring on Broadway as Satine in Moulin Rouge, sets the ball rolling with a blazing rendition of No Way in which she tells how Henry V111 tried to annul their marriage and place her in a nunnery and replace her with Ann Boleyn.

Rule-breaking second wife, Anne Boleyn, sassily interpreted by Kala Gare, mocks Catherine with Don’t Lose Ur Head, explaining how after discovery Henry’s infidelities she flirted with other men to make him jealous, only to be beheaded for her trouble.

Loren Hunter as Henry’s loyal third wife, the pensive Jane Seymour, makes her bid with the lovely ballad, Heart of Stone, an Adele-like number in which she claims that she was the only one of the wives that Henry truly loved, although his love was conditional on her giving him a male heir.

The independent Anna of Cleves, portrayed by Karis Oka, complains of her lonely if lavish existence having been chosen, then rejected by Henry when she didn’t resemble her portrait, with her song Get Down. She ultimately decides to return to this existence after being questioned by the others, before Chelsea Dawson as Henry’s fifth and least relevant wife, Katherine Howard, challenges the group by recounting in the cheeky All You Wanna Do,  her many romantic encounters before she too was ultimately beheaded.

Finally Vidya Makan as the empowering Catherine Parr fed up with all the arguing, questions the point of the competition by recounting her own accomplishments independent of Henry with I Don’t Need Your Love. Inspired by Catherine’s argument to realise they didn’t need Henry’s validation, they band together for the rousing finale number Six in which they re-invent history to tell how their stories would have turned out if Henry hadn’t been involved.

An intelligent, high-octane, tightly choreographed ensemble show in which every member of the exceptional cast and band are on stage for the entire 75 minutes playing time, SIX is a thoroughly entertaining show with superb production values and electrifying performances which can be enjoyed on many levels. It is certainly not to be missed.

SIX The Musical
Canberra Theatre – Canberra Theatre Centre, Civic Square, Canberra
Performance: Wednesday 27 April 2022
Season continues to 15 May 2022

Following the Canberra season, SIX will play Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre from 17 June; and Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide from 21 May 2022. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Kala Gare, Chelsea Dawson, Kiana Daniele, Loren Hunter, Vidya Makan and Phoenix Jackson Mendoza (SIX Australian 2021 Cast) – photo by James D Morgan | Getty Images

Review: Bill Stephens OAM