ART's "Six": Don't Reign on Their Parade

Adrianna Hicks & the Cast of "Six"
(photo: Liz Lauren)

Six, the first production of ART's new season (in association with Chicago Shakespeare Theater) is a spectacular piece of performance art, essentially a seventy-five minute concert created by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. It might as well be titled Where's Henry?, as in King Henry the Eighth who, though frequently alluded to, is neither seen nor heard; instead, in what seems long overdue poetic justice, it headlines his six wives, each one with her own story to sing. The work, first presented by the Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society, then at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, moved to London's West End, and subsequently Chicago.

Now, with an impossibly energetic cast, it has arrived in Cambridge, on its way to Broadway. It features Catherine of Aragon (Adrianna Hicks), Anne Boleyn (Andrea Macasaet), Jane Seymour (Abby Mueller), Anna of Cleves (Brittney Mack), Katherine Howard (Courtney Mack) and Catherine Parr (Anna Uzele), each of whom gets her moment in the spotlight. With just nine musical numbers (three ensembles and six solos), these are long moments, but the ultimately brief production seems to fly by, unencumbered by even an attempt at a Book, though it effectively heralds some sly feminist wit.

This makes for an exhausting visual and aural experience, as vibrantly Directed by Moss and Jamie Armitage and brilliantly Choreographed by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, with Music Direction by Roberta Duchak, Music Supervision by Joe Beighton, and Orchestrations by Tim Curran. The intricate Set Design by Emma Bailey and fabulous Costume Design by Gabriella Slade add to the excitement; the Lighting Design by Tim Deiling is, literally and figuratively, electrifying, and the Sound Design by Paul Gatehouse is powerful throughout.

Not since last season's Moulin Rouge has a musical production elicited the level of ecstatic enthusiasm from an opening night audience. The cast had them dancing in the aisles at their curtain calls, as will you, unless your preferences lean more to the traditional forms of musical theater, which this is decidedly not. If you accept this as it is intended, namely as an extended real-life music video, you too will be singing its praises; if it's not your cuppa, at least they're not guilty of false advertising. It requires rethinking the term “Broadway show”, as so many productions do these days. (Since it utilizes music from “Greensleeves”, would this qualify as a jukebox musical?).
Described as a “limited reign”, the production has been extended through September 29th after which it will be executed elsewhere.