Six: The Musical is a British musical which tells the story of King Henry VIII’s six wives.
The musical originally began as a project for a couple of Cambridge University students and quickly became a West End production. The show is unique as it features the six wives, Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boyleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves (referred to as Anne of Cleves in the show), Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr, as concert performers who tell their stories to the audience like it’s a one-on-one conversation.
Each character was developed to resemble current female music and emphasizes the theme of independence, individuality and girl power. The modernization of European history with the wife's personas and the show’s jokes that are very relevant to modern pop culture, in addition to the spectacular lighting and costuming, makes Six an amazing experience. An experience that many Malden High School students were able to have on September 27th.
Leanne DeRosa, the new Play Production director shares that she has gone to see shows at the ART (American Repertory Theater) before with students that by “working with the ART [she] knew students had [the] opportunity” to see the show. Todd Cole, Choral Arts teacher and fellow musical theater fanatic had seen Six various times and gave it high praise. That is why when Six announced that its US National tour would be taking them to Boston, DeRosa knew this would be a chance that could not be given up
The opportunity to go was open to Play Production and Choral Arts students and a lot of them accepted for the sake of taking their first field trip of the school year. Junior Ronald Batista states that he “[did not have] any background knowledge about [King Henry VIII],” and he was not alone. A lot of students did not have a lot of knowledge of the Tudor king, one who really had a large impact on European history.
Junior Alissa Schopp adds how she “didn’t know the specific story of any [of the wives].” There is a rhyme that’s often taught when discussing King Henry’s marriages and it goes “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.” Although this rhyme proves useful in memorizing the order of his relationships, it doesn’t share the queens names or who they are as people. Schopp comments on how she ”didn’t know who [the queens were] or their names, [she] just knew they played a huge part in history.”
King Henry VIII was known for breaking away from the Holy Roman Church to establish his own called the Church of England and beginning the era of Reformation, all to divorce from his first wife and to remarry.
Batista shared how he was initially “expecting King Henry to be a character and there being some kind of medieval place,” as part of the show. Everyone was blown away to see that the whole set up was like being in an actual concert, where the queens were all sharing their own personal stories and their lives before, during, and after their marriage with the King through song and dance. “They filled the space with their energy” Schopp describes it, “the lights, the music, the dancing, it was breath-taking.”
Six accomplishes it’s goal in having each of the queens be known for being their own person and having done huge accomplishes individually It shares how Catherine Parr was the first women in England to publish books under her own name and how Anne Boylen proved to be extremely helpful in court as a French translator, and many more additional interesting facts for each character and historic figure.
In the musical theater world, there has been a wonderful trend in using theater as a way to share stories that are often being overlooked. “The material of musical theater has often included historical things,” Cole explains, “Now as Broadway begins to become more modernized, it’s beginning to capture youths attention. Additionally, the way history is taught can be very limited to one perspective,” DeRosa describes. “The retelling of these historical events allows for different perspectives and allows different groups to get their story out.”
Shows such as Six or Hamilton, another musical based but based on US historical events, are fun and entertaining ways to get a history lesson on time periods that maybe don’t fit into the social studies curriculum in school but should be acknowledged anyways. With the experience of getting to watch Six, many students and staff were able to learn something about history, theater, and the importance of individuality.