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(L-R) Abby Mueller (Jane Seymour), Samantha Pauly (Katherine Howard), Adrianna Hicks, center, (Catherine of Aragon). Andrea Macasaet in green (Anne Boleyn), Brittney Mack (Anna of Cleves, center) and Anna Uzele (Catherine Parr) Photo: Joan Marcus



By Fern Siegel


Henry VIII of England is remembered for two reasons. First, he created the Church of England. And second, he had six wives with specific fates: divorced, beheaded, died and survived.


The musical Six at the Brooks Atkinson, is a pop concept concert that showcases these women: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard and Katherine Parr. And in the short, nearly 80-minute West End import, they each get, as Andy Warhol predicted, their 15 minutes of fame.


This is a her-story musical, backed by an all-female, on-stage quartet, with an offbeat premise: It s a musical reality show where each queen competes for worst life ever! The sextet Adrianna Hicks, Andrea Macasaet, Abby Mueller, Brittany Mack, Samantha Pauly and Anna Uzele is uniformly terrific, strong singers and dancers who make each queen a star.


The women aren t presented as demure; they are cheeky and assertive, something their real-life counterparts could only dream of being. Then again, Six s nine numbers are a reimaged take on history spunky rather than staid. Inspired by Beyonc , Adele, Rihanna, Alicia Keyes and Britney, among other singers, each royal enjoys her snap moment.

Andrea Macasaet as Anne Boleyn, gets mileage in the song Don t Lose Ur Head, as well as her constant refrain: beheading trumps all. In the number Get Down, Brittney Mack s Anna of Cleves, rejected by Henry because her portrait didn t live up to the real thing, sings: You say that I tricked ya, cause I didn t look like my profile pic-cha! She also admits she dodged a bullet. Anne ends up with a palace and an annulled marriage. Given Henry s capriciousness, it was the safest outcome.

But Six is first and foremost a visual experience. Gabriella Slade s costumes, with a nod to history and a 21st-century twist, add edgy spice. So does Carrie-Anne Ingrouille s sexy, spirited choreography.


The queens reigning years were 1509-1547. But the driving force behind Henry s numerous nuptials wasn t love, it was political alliances and procreation. He needed a male heir to sustain the Tudor dynasty. Ironically, it was his daughters who made history: Mary I (known as Bloody Mary), his first child and zealous Catholic, massacred her Protestant countrymen, while Elizabeth I, the daughter of Anne Boleyn, reigned over a golden age with courage and conviction.


His third wife, Jane Seymour, deemed the only one he truly loved, died in childbirth. Prince Edward died at 16, the first English monarch to be raised as a Protestant.


The wives were another matter.


Six photo 2

Photo caption: Brittney Mack (Anna of Cleves, center). From left, Anna Uzele (Catherine Parr), Abby Mueller (Jane Seymour), Andrea Macasaet (Anne Boleyn) and Adrianna Hicks (Catherine of Aragon). Photo: Joan Marcus


Often preoccupied with religion, they may have been livelier than history credits. However, their power was nil. Henry ruled with an iron hand. As Six explains, pleasing him was a survival tactic. And when he was done with them, he either trumped up charges of adultery or treason (Boleyn and Howard) or he divorced them (Catherine of Aragon and Anne of Cleves). Parr, who may be the most interesting of the six, survived him. She was also the first woman in England to publish books under her own name.


However, the show isn t a feminist treatise, but it does underscore the irony of Henry VIII s reign. No one, the queens note, remembers the wife of Henry VI or Henry VII but everyone knows them. One of the final numbers, Uzele s I Don t Need Your Love, urges the women to define themselves, rather than through Henry s eyes. It s pure feminist fantasy, but a modern reminder of why women must be in charge of their own destiny.


As a set piece, Six is more Britain s Got Talent than Masterpiece Theater. Directed by Lucy Moss and Jamie Armitage, it s rousing for the audience, thanks to original music and often-clever lyrics by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. Still, the production value can appear a bit cheesy at times.


There have been various PBS and Showtime dramas (The Tudors) devoted to the women. The court intrigues, the religious wars, the remarkable defense Catherine of Aragon mounted when Henry took her to court, are absent. First and foremost, Six is pop entertainment, with a remix of history. Or as the queens explain: You re going to hear us live in consort.

Six, Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 W. 47 St.

Running time: 80 minutes, no intermission. Tickets: