The cast for the upcoming Broadway musical “Six” has recently been announced, and with the tickets going on sale later this month, there is much speculation as to how the production will be received. “Six” is a British musical transferring from London’s West End and has often been compared to the hit musical “Hamilton” due to its focus on a key piece of British history: the fate of the six wives of King Henry VIII. However, despite this similarity, “Six” takes a completely different approach to the traditional musical form than “Hamilton,” so it is uncertain whether it will appeal so readily to international audiences.
One of the reasons why “Hamilton” is received so well in London is because it relates a fundamental piece of American history with such attention to detail, chronology, and historical accuracy that even people with no prior knowledge can follow the story with relative ease. “Six,” on the other hand, aims to modernize its subject matter. Instead of remaining faithful to history, it reimagines the six wives – referred to as “queens” – as members of a feuding girl band who argue about who had the worst experience with the king. This premise, though unique and thoroughly enjoyable, gives little aid to audience members who are unfamiliar with the historical background which the musical aims to revolutionize. For this reason, American audiences may find the musical less witty and impactful than it is perceived in Britain.
Similar to the popular new musical “Come From Away” (which, coincidentally, is also based on a true historical event), “Six” is a short, one-act musical that runs for only seventy-five minutes with no intermission. In this way, it distances itself from the more traditional musicals: it is self-consciously a snapshot of British history, not a full retelling. This shorter style of musical also helps to make theatre more accessible to people who have not previously enjoyed it. With society’s growing affinity for tweets and other short forms of information, this modern configuration of the traditional musical may even be the future of theatre.
The West End production of “Six” has been particularly popular with children and early-teens, especially young girls. Not only does the production’s curtailed duration appeal to many members of the younger generation, but it also has a strong theme of female empowerment. The cast and band are exclusively female, and the figure of King Henry VIII, though alluded to, never makes an appearance. Rather, the queens aim to “reclaim their story”, thereby teaching young girls that they should never feel pressured to stand in the shadow of a man. Clearly influenced by current strong female popstars and girl bands, this production foregrounds feminine power in a new and exciting way.
Considering all these factors, it is impossible that “Six” will be received on Broadway in the same way that it is appreciated on the West End. It will also not fare well in the inevitable comparisons to the international sensation that is “Hamilton.” However, it remains a fiercely modern and inspiring production, and it is sure to delight many audiences during its upcoming run on Broadway.