SIX: the musical is currently in the middle of a history-making season at the Sydney Opera House, holding the distinction of being the longest-running production to ever play in those hallowed halls at 125 scheduled performances – that’s even before you consider that technically they started the show before covid was even a word in our collective vocabulary!

The Queens issued an exclusive invitation to the Star Observer for an audience with them backstage at the Sydney Opera House and this humble footman was only too happy to oblige, thrilled to get to witness their star power in person after loving their incredible performance the week before.

Powerhouse Vocals and Funky Choreography

SIX: the musical is a rare, new, original musical theatre experience that gives Henry VIII’s six wives a voice from beyond, each taking a turn to describe their journey with powerhouse vocals and funky choreography.

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Hopefully, it’s only a taste of what’s to come from a couple of exciting musical theatre creators from the UK, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, who created SIX during their final year at university.

Marlow and Moss have a hankering to tell queer stories and shake up musical theatre, working hard to make sure that their shows can be cast with diverse, non-binary casts and their Australian production has taken that directive to heart, a position appreciated by Phoenix Jackson Mendoza, who plays Catherine of Aragon.

Representation is Important

Phoenix loves that she sees little girls in the audience that might be seeing themselves in her performance, “For me personally seeing young girls of colour in the audience has been super touching. If you see it you can be it and I hope to inspire that for the next generation.”

“That is part of the reason that representation is so important. Its such a gift in this show because of the message we put out into the world! I was that young girl in the audience so to get to pay it forward is an absolute pleasure!”

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But Loren Hunter, playing Henry’s favourite wife (rude!), Jane Seymour, wants readers to know that the messages hidden in plain sight in SIX really speaks to anyone who needs to hear it, saying “There will almost always be screaming young girls at every performance but it can’t go unnoticed that the audiences are so varied each and every time.”

“We have even had parents who had brought their young girls last time but thought it would be awesome to bring their young boys the second time around. SIX is certainly a show for EVERYONE.”

This gem of a show has even given confidence to one of its very own stars, with Kiana Daniele, playing Anna of Cleves, confiding that she couldn’t really see herself on stage previously,

“I really struggled to see myself in the Musical Theatre industry so this show is a godsend. I wish I had it growing up. It is such a celebration of individuality and knowing your worth. It is such a joy to be surrounded by such epic humans every day.”

Non-Stop Singing and Dancing

You might, at first glance, think that this is a pretty basic show to perform with a short running time of 75 minutes but then you realise that all 75 minutes are filled with non-stop singing and dancing by the six Queens, with no chorus to hide behind.

Incredibly, they are all singing their own solos, singing back up when not singing solo AND keeping up with not only dance choreography but microphone choreography too!

You start to wonder how they do it… nine shows a week!

Balance is important, says Chelsea Dawson, who plays Katherine Howard, possibly one of the most mentally draining Queens to play, owing to her young start in history’s game of thrones.

“Our day off is very important to us all with recharging ourselves and resting the voice and the body. We call it refilling our cupand it’s all about rest and treating ourselves. Once a show week begins then there is a lot of focus on maintaining energy so eating well, getting enough sleep, drinking lots of water to be super hydrated, physiotherapy and steaming our voice (our true best friend).”

An Inspiration to Future Performers

The spark and crackle of SIX not only inspire possible future performers in its audience, it’s vitality and fresh take has also inspired Vidya Makan, who plays Catherine Parr and also lists composer on her resume, to start thinking about possible shows running around in her head, saying “Before meeting Lucy and Toby, the idea of being a musical theatre composer was always this super far away thing. But when I met them I went, ‘Theyre the same age as me, they look like me, they make jokes like me… And people are interested in their work!”

“Its like it gave me permission to take up space and really go for it. I am constantly inspired now, and so excited to start sharing my own work with the world!”

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Australia’s production of SIX is technically pandemic proof, with the premiere season playing 81 performances pre-covid, before being postponed until December 2021 – a very long break for Kala Gare, who plays Anne Boleyn in the current season and originated the role in Australia in 2020.

Kala spoke about the challenges of being a musical theatre performer during these unstable times, “It’s a special thing when a theatre piece has such an epic and genuine heart attached to it and I think that has helped us stay so positive as well in these really uncertain times with covid everywhere and trying to survive as a ‘spitty, singing and dancing’ production!’.

“Doing what we can and keeping tabs with each other, making sure we’re ok and allowing for whatever comes up, whether it’s fear or whether it sadness or joy, or anything. It’s a very caring company, it was last time and it absolutely is this time as well.”

Catch SIX: the musical in The Studio at Sydney Opera House until April 2nd.

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