‘SIX The Musical’ was fierce.
Dust off your tiaras and your sequin studded boots because the Queens have landed in QUEENSland. Brisbane rolled out the purple carpet and cranked the music for the sizzling opening night where confetti flew, bubbly flowed and the crowd was treated to the ultimate dose of female royal popstar power.
Written by superstars, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, ‘SIX’ chronicles the lives of Henry VIII’s six wives, however, this is no classroom history class. Each inspired by a different pop icon, the six Queens take to the stage and compete for the audience’s pity with songs that are sure to live rent-free in your head. Which of them had the worst hand dealt by the tyrannical King Henry VIII? Divorced, beheaded, dead and one survivor, it’s a bit of a grim narrative for everyone. One thing’s for sure, if every history lesson was taught with this much razzle-dazzle, we would have all done a lot better on our QCS/ATAR tests.
‘SIX’ is known for being performed in fairly intimate venues, think a Tivoli style for all our Brissy readers. However, QPAC’s Playhouse doesn’t quite offer the mosh pit vibes. Instead, the stage and lighting design was the hero in bringing the action in and helping the six performers fill the stage.
Lighting and set design took inspiration from pop concerts, with a tiered stage for the band and flashing LED strips around the proscenium and upstage. No wall was left unlit and international Lighting Designer Tim Deiling coupled with Australian Associate, Jason Fripp certainly had their work cut out for themselves with a mind-boggling number of lighting cues. Design was a perfect mixture of pop concert oomph and theatrical effects. Symbolism was used throughout the performance especially in reference to the church, with pews, crosses, stained glass windows and portraits all created using LED strips.
Synonymous with the pop icons of the past, performers used hand-held microphones. It’s no easy feat to dance for 75 minutes straight while pocketing and switching microphones, but the six Queens have it down to a fine art.
Choreographer, Carrie-Anne Ingrouille and Resident Choreographer Cristina D’Agostino must have Tetris boards in their heads. Not only do you have to manage to pocket and bring out microphones but the cast never leaves the stage. There is near-constant movement and therefore constant choreography. The formations were dynamic with contemporary moves and effective use of shape throughout.
Obviously, you can’t give ‘SIX’ a wrap-up without talking about the costumes. The bedazzled outfits that are so linked with the characters and essence of ‘SIX’ really come into their own when under the dazzling lights. Costume Designer, Gabriella Slade captured the character of each Queen in their costumes. From the demure Seymour to the rock-chic Boleyn, each colour and shape worked so perfectly with the rest of the spectacle.
Much to the detriment of many productions, the band can fall into the background however this is certainly not the case in ‘SIX’. Each of the ‘ladies in waiting’ get a much-deserved solo and named introduction, much like in a band gig. Their energy was palatable and added so much to the vocals on stage.
There are no leads in this production and each wife has their moment to shine. The production finishes with the message that women need to stop comparing themselves and instead use their combined girl-boss energy for good. Let’s continue by giving these queens the kudos they deserve!
Bringing the Beyonce and Shakira energy to the QPAC stage was Phoenix Jackson Mendoza as Catherine of Aragon. Mendoza’s characterisation was on point, bringing sass and sensitivity at the perfect moments. Mendoza strutted across the stage like she owned it and the crowd responded with rapturous applause.
Anne Boleyn is always a crowd favourite and with an absolutely banging song to boot. Kala Gare brought a new sarcasm to the role, delivering her lines in a way that was understated, allowing the intelligence of her character and dialogue to come through. She had the audience in stitches with her sublime comic timing and brought an incredibly memorable performance to Brisbane audiences.
The song that is sure to break a few hearts and make you shed a few tears was expertly performed by Loren Hunter as Jane Seymour. It is a difficult task to smash out a ballad after a number of high-energy songs but Hunter commanded the stage and brought the audience along on her emotional journey.
There are not enough positive adjectives to describe Kiana Daniele’s incredible performance as Anna of Cleves. Her energy was through the roof, her movements precise, her attitude sharp and her vocals strong. Daniele is certainly a powerhouse performer to keep an eye on.
Professional theatre newcomer, Chelsea Dawson smashed Katherine Howard out of the royal court! She was gravitating to watch and gave Howard beautiful vulnerability whilst maintaining her biting edge.
Vidya Makan as the final wife, Catherine Parr, rounded out the stellar cast perfectly. Her ability to command the stage and theatre was a fantastic end to the production.
If you haven’t bought a ticket to visit the Queendom then what are you waiting for? You will certainly be leaving the theatre singing your favourite Queen’s song.
‘SIX’ performs until Sunday, 19 February 2023 at the Playhouse QPAC. For more information visit their website: https://www.qpac.com.au/event/sixthemusical_22