DIVORCED, beheaded, Covid-19’ed, SIX The Musical could have passed this way before, but “localised lockdowns” hit Live Nation Entertainment’s six drive-in shows at Church Fenton airport for six in August 2020.
Now, the newly refurbished Grand Opera House, in York, has the delight of hosting the first North Yorkshire run of the “electrifying musical phenomenon that everyone has lost their head over”, fully booked up from October 11 to 16.
First presented by Cambridge University students in a 100-seat Sweet Venue room at the 2017 Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’s musical has been catapulted into a West End and international hit en route to being named the Musical of the Decade by WhatsOnStage (as well as Best Musical 2020). Nominations for five Olivier Awards, including Best New Musical, came the show’s way too.
Songs from the SIX studio album are streamed on average 450,000 times per day, making it the second-highest streaming musical theatre recording in the world after Hamilton.
SIX The Musical’s debut York run has sold out already, but why is there all this hoo-ha over the vengeful wives of Henry’s irreverent musical romp?
Welcome to their Queendom where Tudor queens turn into pop princesses as the six wives of Henry VIII take to the mic to tell their tales, remixing 500 years of historical heartbreak into a 75-minute celebration of 21st-century girl power. These queens may have green sleeves (a reference to the Henry VIII-penned Tudor chart topper) but their lipstick is rebellious red.
Among the cast for a third year is Jennifer Caldwell, playing Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife, the one who was beheaded by a French swordsman on May 19 1536 after being found guilty of charges of adultery, incest and conspiracy against the king.
“I’m incredibly lucky to be a part of this wonderful show, which has such a great message and allows people to be, unapologetically, who they truly are,” says Jennifer, feeling very definitely luckier than Anne B.
“Having previously covered all the roles and had the opportunity to tell all those women’s amazing stories, to be able to play the iconic Anne Boleyn and fill the iconic boots of the incredible humans who have played her before is a dream come true.”
After covering the role of Anne Boleyn previously, “I had a lot of time to prepare and learn my own little nuances. I also read – a lot! – and watched documentaries to learn as much about our dear Anne Boleyn as I could,” Jennifer says.
She found rehearsing for the latest tour “great fun”. “Being able to go back to the drawing board and discover who my Boleyn is and be able to have ownership over that was really special,” she says. “Getting to bond with the new cast was wonderful too.”
SIX is a very vocally demanding show, 75 minutes straight through and no interval. “I often live a little like a nun! I steam every morning and drink loads of water,” says Jennifer.
Picking out a favourite moment on the tour so far, she plumps for: “Being able to reopen after Covid. Feeling the love and appreciation from the audience. I cried!”
What should York’s audiences expect from the show, Jennifer? “Stupendous vocals, incredible choreography, laughter by the bucket load and…a whole lotta history,” she says.
“I want audiences to take away the message that we’re all enough on our own! We don’t need to be defined by anything other than who we are!”
Anything else? “I want them to leave with a stomach ache from laughing and aching cheeks from smiling too hard.”
SIX The Musical, directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage, heads into Grand Opera House, York from October 11 to 16; performances at 8pm, Tuesday to Thursday; 6pm and 8.30pm, Friday; 5pm and 8pm, Saturday; 3pm, Sunday. ALL SOLD OUT. Don’t lose your head still trying to acquire a ticket.
Copyright of The Press, York