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How 'Six' in the West End took over the world

From the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to the West End and Broadway, here’s how Six took over the musical theatre world.

Sophie Thomas
Sophie Thomas

We all know about Henry VIII, the Tudor monarch who, during his 24-year reign, married six women. The sextet of ladies were previously consigned to the history books under the simple rhyme: “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.” But what became of the six women? And more importantly, why was all the focus on Henry VIII?

Enter Six. The chart-topping musical shines a spotlight on Henry’s wives, allowing them to take to the mic and share their stories with a girl-power pop flair. The six wives now have musical personas: this celebration of female empowerment channels Beyoncé, Adele, Alicia Keys, and more. Six continues to take over the West End and Broadway, and the original Six album has clocked up over 100 million streams. But how did Six develop into a 21st-century musical smash-hit?

Check out all the Six productions and milestones throughout history, all the way from early performances at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe to its Broadway debut that triumphed at the 2022 Tony Awards.

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2017: Six at Cambridge University

The two Six creators, Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow, penned Six while in their final year of university. Moss’s studies mainly focused on feminist history, while Marlow read English. Moss and Marlow were offered the opportunity to take a musical up to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe through their university’s musical theatre society. Together, they created a musical based on the lives of the six women who married Henry VIII.

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2017: Six at Edinburgh Festival Fringe

After creating the musical, Moss and Marlow took Six for a cold run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Six received a plethora of positive reviews, with critics praising the show’s feminist take and tight choreography.

The original Six cast featured Megan Gilbert as Catherine of Aragon, Ashleigh Weir as Anne Boleyn, Holly Musgrave as Jane Seymour, Tilda Wickham as Anna of Cleves, Annabel Marlow (Toby Marlow’s younger sister) as Katherine Howard, and Shimali de Silva as Catherine Parr.

2017: Six in the West End

Following the Six success in Scotland, Six played a limited engagement at the Arts Theatre. A new Six cast joined the musical for London performances: Renée Lamb as Catherine of Aragon, Christina Modestou as Anne Boleyn, Natalie Paris as Jane Seymour, Genesis Lynea as Anna of Cleves, Aimie Atkinson as Katherine Howard, and Izuka Hoyle as Catherine Parr. If you’re listening to the original Six cast recording, you'll hear this London cast sing.

The first Six London performance took place on 18 Dec. 2017 and ran for four performances during one week. After initial performances, two more were added, totting up to ... six performances. During the West End run, the “megasix” was added. It’s a final medley of songs in the show, and audiences are encouraged to film the curtain call.

2018: Six begins its first UK tour

After London performances, Six played a nationwide tour, which began in Norwich. Natalie Paris and Aimie Atkinson continued with the show. The company included five new members: Jarneia Richard-Noel as Catherine of Aragon, Millie O’Connell as Anne Boleyn, Alexia McIntosh as Anna of Cleves, Maiya Quansah-Breed as Catherine Parr, as Grace Mouat as an alternate.

Six played in regional theatres before returning to Edinburgh Festival Fringe for a second year — a decision which sent the musical’s popularity into the stratosphere.

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2018: Six returns to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe

Six played a sold-out monthlong run at the 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, performing in the Underbelly. During the festival, Six gained a legion of celebrity fans including Graham Norton, Phillip Schofield, and Michelle Visage, as well as picking up a theatre community buzz.

2019: Six begins an open-ended West End run

After two festivals and a nationwide tour, Six eventually began its open-ended run at the Arts Theatre. Six commenced Arts Theatre performances in January 2019 and would eventually play at the Arts Theatre to March 2020, when performances were cancelled due to the pandemic.

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2019: Six takes over the Olivier Awards

A few months into its West End run, Six received five Olivier Award nominations: Best New Musical, Outstanding Achievement in Music, Best Theatre Choreographer, Best Costume Design, and Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical (for all six lead company members). Even though Six didn’t win any Oliviers, the ceremony introduced the musical to a wider audience and affirmed its multi-generational popularity.

2019: Six heads to North America

Following the West End success, it didn’t take too long for Six to travel Stateside. The North American premiere of Six took place at Chicago’s Shakespeare Theater in May 2019. Following Chicago, Six transferred to the American Repertory Theater in Boston in August 2019, and then made its Canadian premiere at the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton in November 2019.

2019: Six is performed on cruiseships

Even if you were going on holiday, you could still see Six. In 2019, Six was commissioned onboard three Norwegian Cruise Line ships. Six is still performed on select cruiseliners today!

2019: Six tours the United Kingdom

If you couldn’t make it to the West End to see Six in 2019, you could see Six at regional theatres. Six started a UK tour on 24 Oct. 2019 at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford. The musical is still on tour today and is currently on its third cycle of touring cast members.

2020: Six in Australia

It was time for the Tudor queens to go down under at some point. Six made its Australasian premiere at Sydney Opera House before playing across Canberra, Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane, and New Zealand.

2020: Six heads to Broadway

It was a tough time for Six on Broadway at first. After Six began performances in March 2020, the original opening night was cancelled the night Broadway theatres shut — 12 Mar. 2020. Thankfully, that wasn’t it for this ruling show. Six reopened at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre on 17 Sept. 2021 and continues to play in New York.

2021: Six at the Lyric Theatre

A year into the pandemic, Six was one of the first musicals to reopen in the West End. Six moved London venues, though, transferring from the Arts Theatre to the Lyric Theatre, a larger performance space.

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2021: Six at the Vaudeville Theatre

Six didn’t play at the Lyric Theatre for too long. Six moved into its current home, the Vaudeville Theatre, in September 2021. It’s considered the musical’s “forever home.” Six is currently running at the Vaudeville Theatre through April 2023.

2022: Six tours the United States

There’s no way US audiences would miss out on Six. After the West End production went on tour, the Broadway show soon followed suit. Six began its debut US tour — dubbed the Aragon Tour after Henry VIII’s first wife — at the CIBC Theatre in Chicago.

2022: Six at the Tony Awards

Six received eight Tony Award nominations: Best Musical, Best Costume Design in a Musical, Best Lighting Design in a Musical, Best Sound Design of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Choreography, Best Orchestrations, and Best Original Score. During the ceremony, Six walked away with two awards: Best Costume and Best Original Score. Find out more about Six at the Tony Awards.

2022: Six performances at Hampton Court

In June 2022, the Olivier-nominated cast of Six return to their roles to star in two performances at Hampton Court Palace. There’s plenty of Tudor history attached to the English palace, as Henry VIII lived there during his rule. We wonder what Henry would say about his wives getting all the attention centuries later.

2022: Six musical film

The Olivier-nominated Six cast will also star in the Six musical film, which is being recorded at the Vaudeville Theatre. The Six recording will take place in late June 2022, culminating in an audience performance on 1 July 2022. It’s unknown when the Six film will be released, but we can’t wait to watch it already!

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Photo credits: 2017 cast, 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2019 Oliviers, and 2021 West End cast (Photos courtesy of production (2017/2019/2021) and writer's own (2018).

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