‘Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived,’ – that’s the only Tudor history lesson you need to know before heading to SIX The Musical, currently playing at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne. 

SIX’s journey from a student production at the 2017 Edinburgh Festival Fringe to a certified international hit is nothing short of what Broadway, West End and TikTok Viral video dreams are made of. 

Delayed by two years due to COVID lockdowns, the Tony award-winning musical finally arrives in Melbourne,  after a record 15-week run at the Studio at Sydney Opera House, Canberra Theatre Centre and Adelaide’s Her Majesty’s Theatre. 

The Six Wives Of Henry VIII

SIX re-imagines the tragic fates of the six wives of Henry VIII. The musical is very much a queer story – reclaiming the victim narrative and becoming a story about survival and empowerment. In this retelling by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, originally written and directed when they were students in their early 20s, the patriarchal narrative is blown to smithereens with a glitter gun and pop music. 

The historical Queens get a queer makeover and transform into modern-day pop princess divas, who are competing in a reality singing competition. The crown goes to the one who has suffered the most at the hands of the King. 

Phoenix Jackson Mendoza as Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII kicks off the competition, raising the bar with her powerful vocals, infectious energy and sass. The solo “No way” is clearly inspired by Beyonce in style. Anne Boleyn, Henry VIII’s most famous wife and Elizabeth I’s mother, is presented in historical narratives as the “martyr”. Kala Gare turns that image on its head with a sexy Avril Lavigne-style number “Don’t lose your head” and the catchy refrain “Sorry, Not Sorry“. 

Our Stories Need Not Be Defined By The Man In Our Lives

Henry VIII’s third wife Jane Seymour is played by Loren Hunter. Image: Supplied

Next, it’s time for Jane Seymour, the only wife that Henry VIII really loved, played by Loren Hunter – to take the stage. Loren channels Adele-style powerful vocals in a soulful ballad “Heart of stone“. Anna of Cleves, played by Kiana Daniele follows and clearly walks away with the most applause and cheers with her punk style, fierce, tongue-sticking-out number “Get Down” – Nicki Minaj anyone?.

“All you wanna do” is the next number by Chelsea Dawson, who plays the fifth wife Katherin Howard, rocking a high pink coloured ponytail a la Ariana Grande. The last performance is by Shannen Alyce Quan (swing performer in place of original cast member Vidya Makan), who plays Catherine Parr – the Queen who survived. “I don’t need your love” brings together the entire show, starting as a slow ballad and evolving into a fast-paced, thumping Alicia Keys rhythm. 

Quan’s character starts off as a reluctant performer, but ends with a rousing call to sisterhood, and makes the other queens realise that their stories don’t need to be defined by a tyrannical King or the abuse he heaped on them.

Phoenix Jackson Mendoza as Catherine of Aragon, the first wife of Henry VIII. Image: Supplied

SIX Is A Riot

The call to break the cycle of abuse and patriarchy, clearly resonated with the audience in the theatre, made up largely of women of all ages. The final two numbers had the audience, already in the aisles and dancing next to the stage,  rooting for the Queens, who have now reclaimed their stories. 

SIX is powered by original scores and spirited performances, backed by a full all-female band – the Ladies in Waiting. The pop song references are scattered all across the performance like Easter eggs for the audience to pick up and have fun with. – “Tell me what you want, what you really really want” ( Spice Girls),  “Ladies let’s get in formation” (Beyonce).

SIX Australian 2021 Cast-Loren Hunter, Chelsea Dawson, Phoenix Jackson Mendoza, Kala Gare, Kiana Daniele, Vidya Makan. Photo: James D Morgan. Image Supplied.

The costumes, stage lighting and sets deserve a special mention – they add to the concert-like atmosphere in the theatre.  The costumes are what a drag queen – think Detox/Monet/Katya/Trinity The Tuck – would have dreamed up in the RuPaul Drag Race multi-verse.

SIX is more pop concert than musical but is probably one of the best musical extravaganzas that you can enjoy right now on a wintry Saturday afternoon or a windy evening in Melbourne. 

SIX the Musical is now playing at the Comedy Theatre in Melbourne till August 21, 2022. To book tickets, click here. 


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