Monday, June 10, 2019

Review of Six at Chicago Shakespeare

Once upon a time I went to a show and it was called Six. It was by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss and it was directed by Moss and Jamie Armitage. It was choreographed by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille. It is about the six wives of Henry VIII, who are putting on a concert to decide which one of them suffered the most during her marriage to him and therefore who will be the lead singer. It is about feminism, taking ownership of your own life story, and overcoming differences. I think this is a vocal masterpiece of a show. All the performers were brilliant and it was clever, fun, and uplifting with several gut-punching moments of truth.

Divorced.... Catherine of Aragon (Adrianna Hicks) is the first wife of Henry VIII. She was very loyal to him which is the main point of the song. Even though he was sleeping around, she still stayed loyal to him and didn't say a word. She has been such a good wife, but even though she has been the perfect wife to him, he still wants to get rid of her. And she says, "there is no way that you are going to kick me out because I'm an amazing person and there is no reason you would want to leave me". It is Beyonce's Lemonade collapsed into one song. It is very empowering and I love that she is showing her devotion at the same time that she is showing she can do better. I thought the performance was absolutely gorgeous. I loved the tone switches between heartfelt and furious, which I think is a relatable parallel. The other divorcée, Anna of Cleves (Brittney Mack), also has an amazing song that reminded me of "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea. It starts with a similar bass line and is very braggy in a badass way. It is also very empowering because she talks about not just the things she possesses as part of the divorce settlement, but things she is, like how hot she is and how powerful she is and how she can do what she wants because she is queen of her own castle. She really got the audience hyped up, which I think is important for such a braggy song. It might seem self-involved, but when she gets the audience involved, it shows that it is more of a group brag about female power. The performance was excellent, engaging, and was the perfect pick me up after a ballad.

Beheaded.... Anne Boleyn (Andrea Macasaet) and Katherine Howard (Samantha Pauley) seem to have a leg up on the suffering competition because he literally had them killed. Anne Boleyn's song, "Don't Lose Ur Head," was less empowering because it was very clearly targeted at Catherine of Aragon, trying to show that she was overreacting and should have just accepted how obvious it was that Henry preferred Anne. It is a very very catchy song though and reminds me of a mix of The Pipettes, Marina and the Diamonds, and Spice Girls, which are some pretty brilliant artists so it is bound to be catchy. I think bratty British pop is perfect for her because you can tell by the way she acted that she thinks she is entitled to quite a bit. She is trying to seem innocent, but can't hide that she is self-obsessed and scheming. This creates some really great levels, which the actor totally nailed, throughout the song. I really liked the haunting undertone in Katherine Howard's song "All You Wanna Do." The beginning of the song is very sexual and Britney-Spears-like, but as the song continues and as she tells us about more of her past lovers, she slowly starts to realize how jaded and depressed she is. She is being used by all of these men and she has lost her own self worth. That is a lot to convey in one song, especially an upbeat pop song, but it was done so beautifully and emotionally by Pauly. She had these shifts in the song where she would realize what was happening, but then seemed to become distracted almost mid-realization by the next guy. This entire song was super effective, and I feel like it was important to show that even though she was a very sex-positive figure, some of that was a defense mechanism from all of the early sexualization in her life. The breakdown at the end of the song really got to me. You could really see her falling apart on stage and begging for help, and it was really hard to watch this super confident woman fall apart like that, but I still think it is important to show.

Died and Survived.... Jane Seymour's (Abby Mueller) song was called "Heart of Stone" and it was about how no matter how much garbage was hurled at her by Henry, she still loved him very very much and was going to stand by him even though it took a lot out of her. The most powerful section of the song for me was when she talked about her son and also about how if she hadn't had a son it might have made it so Henry wouldn't have stayed with her. It was very clear when she sang this that she had a lot of love for her son and realized how important he was to both of them, but she is devastated that she doesn't get to see him grow up. This song I would call a feat because Mueller made me cry within the first 15 seconds of this song. Her voice is so gorgeous and fits so well with this song. She made me feel the intention and the raw emotion behind the words of the song. Usually having a heart of stone means you are unfeeling, but in this song it means she is selfless and her heart can endure whatever it is hit with. Catherine Parr (Anna Uzele) had a song, "I Don't Need Your Love," that is very soulful and hopeful. The first half of the song is a letter to Thomas, the love of her life, because Henry has chosen to marry her and she has no choice but to comply. It becomes wishful because if she could she would tell Henry she didn't need him and would leave, but she can't do that without signing a suicide note. It feels gratifying to hear that she did make it out and survived Henry and got to spend the rest of her life doing what she should have been able to do years ago. I thought it was a gorgeous song and you could hear in her voice how much she loved Thomas. Her wishing her life was different was heartbreaking and beautifully done.

People who would like this show are people who like empowering queens, Renaissance references, and group brags about female power. I think this is an amazing show. Every single artist in this show is insanely talented. It is very empowering. It is a musical that looks back on the past and shows how the situations these women were in are relevant today. It shows how even if the queens are not here now, women can take back their stories, apply them to their own lives, and re-envision and revise them. It was inspirational, and it was a blast.

Photos: Liz Lauren

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