‘SIX’ creators Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss on developing new musical ‘Why Am I So Single?’

The musical theatre duo were catapulted to success with their show about the six wives of Henry VIII. Now they're back with a new project about modern dating.

Olivia Rook
Olivia Rook

A few months from the opening of their new musical Why Am I So Single? at London’s Garrick Theatre, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss are deep in the revisions stage of the writing process. “The way we’re working on it at the moment is we’re gonna do the worst ever draft anyone’s ever done, just getting something done, and then we can change it,” quips Moss, who also directs the show.

The walls of their Hackney-based office are plastered in row upon row of brightly coloured Post-it notes, covered in plans for the hotly anticipated musical, which follows two single best friends, who are struggling to navigate the challenges of modern dating. Audiences had their first glimpse of Why Am I So Single? in 2023, when a workshop was staged at Sadler’s Wells in London.

It is their first major show since the success of SIX, a feminist retelling of the lives of Henry VIII’s six wives, which landed in the West End in 2019. The musical has since gone to Broadway and embarked on a North American tour, with further productions staged in Australia, Canada, and South Korea. It was nominated for five Olivier Awards in 2019 and won two Tony Awards in 2022, for Best Original Score and Best Costume Design in a Musical.

Moss and Marlow chatted with London Theatre about the pop influences that have inspired the score of Why Am I So Single? and how they came up with the idea for their new musical.

Tell us what Why Am I So Single? is about

Lucy Moss: It's about two friends, who spend their whole lives moaning about why they're so tragically single. And then they decide that, once and for all, they're going to figure it out, so they can fix all their problems and live happily ever after. And then it starts to shift and become more about their relationship to each other. It's really about the horror and hilarity of being single, but it's also much more about friendship, loneliness, and love.

The other thing I should say is that they happen to be two musical theatre writers, who don't have anything important enough to write about for their next show. So they’re procrastinating writing a musical by deciding to figure out why they're single.

Toby Marlow: In terms of what to expect, oh my God, expect song, dance, and dizzying spectacle! A lot of silliness, big ensemble numbers, and a lot of heart as well.

Moss: It's like a super fun night hanging out with your best friend, drinking Prosecco, and eating pizza, smashed together with the biggest, fanciest musical.

Talk to me about your writing process

Moss: People always want to know who does what. I think that the process of writing songs and scenes always changes. It’s always what the specific [situation] requires. We brainstorm the whole thing together, I write down the scene and put it into a shape. And then we come back, tear it apart, and put it back together again. It doesn't ever really feel like one of us generates something from scratch and the other one edits — the idea phase is always together.

How did you come up with the idea for the musical?

Marlow: We came up with the idea at the start of 2019, and we hadn't had a chance to do much [new] writing because we'd spent a year getting [SIX] going. We wrote it with no expectation of doing anything big or important beyond the Edinburgh Festival Fringe run, so after it [took off] it was like, “What’s next? Have you got another huge idea that’s going to do this huge thing?” We were a bit like, “Well, I guess we probably should then!”

We went away on this writing retreat, and had one idea that we felt could be explored in the musical. When we got there, we were having a hard time with the idea and would spend a lot of time drinking and eating sweets and chatting about each other's lives because we'd spent so much time running around doing SIX. We hadn’t really got a chance to sit down and just have a big old gossip.

There was this one moment where we clicked and were like, “What if this is the musical and it’s about friendships and these stories that make up our lives?” When we went back to look at the other idea, we boiled it down and it was very similar: ultimately, the relationships between gaydies, ladies, and theydies is the kind of thing we wanted to explore, celebrate, and give space to on stage.

It really isn’t this memoir that we’ve put on stage. A lot of it is based on us, people in our lives, and a lot of it is completely fabricated or exaggerated. I quite enjoy the mystery — no one is ever really going to know what’s true.

What kind of influences can we expect in the music?

Moss: With SIX, it had a specific concept, but this is much freer. A lot of the music we like to listen to and most like to write is contemporary pop styles and it’s been really fun to include lots of other genres as well. So we have a 1930s jazz number, an early Noughties Pussycat Dolls club banger, a disco number, and there’s pastiches from other musicals. It’s like a big smorgasbord.

How does it feel to have achieved such success at this stage in your career?

Moss: Towards the beginning of our career, lots of our peers were still trying to get stuff together for scratch nights […] and we were in this space where we had opportunities to make [work]. I definitely feel a responsibility to try and stay true to the younger voices. We're often some of the younger people in the room who are more ‘online’ and aware of whatever conversations are going on culturally. [We try] to make the rooms that we're in fit with what we believe.

Marlow: It'd be so fabulous if producers took risks on writers and early stages of projects more and more because that will bring so many wonderful, interesting musicals to audiences. A lot of the bigger shows that we love now, I'm sure at the time [they] were like, “A bunch of cats dancing?!” When people put money behind [new work], they can give insight and nurture things creatively, which makes for incredible new projects.

TodayTix is exclusively offering 5,000 tickets at £45 for early performances of Why Am I So Single?

You can also book Why Am I So Single? tickets on London Theatre.

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Photo credit: Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss. (Photo by Matt Crockett)

Originally published on

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