Grab your daughters or your girlfriends and get ready for some girl power, Tudor-style! The North American Tour of SIX, the Tony award-winning sensation about the six wives of Henry XIII, is playing at Keller Auditorium now through Sunday, July 30. My sixteen-year-old niece and I were in the packed audience opening night and we both loved every electrifying minute!
“Divorced, beheaded, died. Divorced, beheaded, survived.” Thus begins the story of Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr. But there is much more to the stories of these queens than just how they were “unfriended” by the king.
If the deluge of pop-culture references don’t bother you (I thought the modern twist was quite clever), the catchy music, gorgeous costumes and talented all-female cast will win you over. In short, it’s a vibrant, fast-paced, fun night out. But SIX is more than just entertainment. Though it takes most of the show to get there, the show delivers an empowering message that’s perfect for sharing with your daughter or other women in your life.
Running less than 90 minutes with no intermission, SIX takes the form of an energetic pop concert. Since the queens have no lead singer, they hold a competition to determine who gets the honor. The criteria is not who has the best vocals, but rather who suffered the most as Henry’s wife. In the end, they realize that their petty competition is tearing them apart, and they make a change. Banding together to support one another, they redefine their lives by who they are and not by the man they married.
I was a little skeptical going in. A friend of mine saw the show on Broadway recently and didn’t like it. She felt the band was too loud and she couldn’t understand the singers. But this production gets it right! My niece and I had no problem hearing and understanding (most) of the lyrics. And, even though it’s set up to feel more like a concert, with flashing lights and smoke effects, this production has a stronger sense of story than I expected. As a bonus, it sparked a great conversation between my niece and me about women in history.
The musical is officially recommended for ages 10+ due to adult themes. Mistresses, adultery, miscarriages, and beheadings are mentioned a lot. There are several instances of adult language, but the beats are so catchy and fun, younger audiences might not even notice. (For example, the song “Don’t Lose Ur Head” contains lyrics like “he doesn’t wanna bang you”, “go to hell”, and “I wouldn’t be such a b—, If you could get it up.”) But I think those instances, as well as much of the sexual innuendo, would go over a tween’s head. It even took my niece a while to pick up on the fact that the entire song “All Ya Wanna Do” turns out to be about sexual abuse. She only got wise after noticing the looks on the faces of other audience members. Even with these themes, SIX isn’t nearly as “adult” as recent touring shows like Pretty Woman or even Hamilton.
Like Hamilton, this show is a big hit, and all remaining performances of SIX are sold out. This is yet another reason why it’s advantageous to be a Broadway in Portland subscriber. If you are lucky enough to have tickets, arrive early so you have time to read the two-page spread in the playbill that explains the “her-story” of the characters. It includes helpful details like who their children were and entertaining bits like which real life pop stars inspired each character and whose interests include “staying alive.”
Looking ahead, there are so many great shows in this year’s lineup. Get tickets to these fabulous performances before they sell out as SIX did:
- The Lion King
- Girl from the North Country
- Tina: The Tina Turner Musical
- Les Miserables
- Cinderella at Tigard’s Broadway Rose is a Perfect Fit - August 5, 2023
- Totally Rad! The Wives of Henry XIII Remix History and Rock the House in SIX - July 26, 2023
- Love Shakespeare’s Othello? You’re Going to Want to See This Show. - July 22, 2023