Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. If you’ve ever said to yourself, “Gee, I really wish the Spice Girls would sing my History of England textbook,” a new show is coming to Broadway to prove that dreams really do come true. Almost.
Though it’s not the actual Spice Girls singing, the “Six” cast emulates the style of a pop girl group, but each member is actually one of King Henry VIII’s six wives. The ladies take turns singing their stories, competing to see which one was treated the worst by the unsatisfied king in an unusual concert format. Peppy songs with clever lyrics like “Don’t Lose Ur Head,” sung by the character of Anne Boleyn, get audiences on their feet while recounting the tragic story of the beheaded queen.
The show was conceived by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, who wrote it while attending Cambridge University, and the show premiered at Edinburgh Fringe, the world’s largest arts festival, in 2017. Marlow had been looking to tell the story of famous women in history ("The Real Housewives of Shakespeare" was an earlier concept), but turned to his friend Moss, a history major, and the two bonded over their love of pop stars.
An instant hit, the show soon traveled to London’s West End and embarked on North American and U.K. tours. The show will make its Broadway debut in March 2020 and will premiere in Australia in January 2020.
As dour of a subject matter as it sounds, the show is a joyous and fun celebration of femininity -- girl power, to be precise -- and has a rabid fan base for its timeless characters who are made anachronistically relatable (see: Boleyn’s phone addiction). Each of the wives is, in fact, inspired by a different A-list singer; Catherine of Aragon is Beyoncé-like, while Catherine Howard is a mashup of Ariana Grande and Britney Spears.
Fans love to post quotes and memes to Instagram, with over 26,000 posts under the #sixthemusical hashtag.
How popular can a show with a petite running time of 75 minutes get? After such a whirlwind debut, might it reach the stellar heights of that other historical, genre-bending musical, “Hamilton”? The show gets better with each listen (you can stream the soundtrack online), and sing-along performances have already been staged. As enthusiastic as fans are to see it, they’re also ready to see it repeatedly and in groups.
So, move over Founding Fathers. There are six new queens in town.