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REVIEW: SIX Short of Hype, Still a Splash (Ordway)

The cast of SIX, now playing at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, MN. Photo by Brett Beiner.

From all the hype, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Broadway-bound SIX is the second coming of, well, Hamilton. It is not – the two are apples and onions apart, one being a themed concert experience and the other being a book musical. What the two mainly have in common are nontraditional casting and a novelty of sound compared to the standard Broadway milieu, and that is where most productive comparisons end.

Aurally, SIX (now playing at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts) sounds like what you’d get if the Spice Girls saw Hamilton, got inspired, went to Eurovision, and then wrote a themed concept album about girl power and the wives of Henry VIII of England. The resulting score has a bouncy, bubblegum pop feel, and co-creators Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss’s have laced the show with catchy hooks, choruses, and innuendos. And, just like a pop concert, Tuesday’s performance was also filled with fans screaming, singing along, and cheering favorite songs.

Adrianna Hicks (as Catherine of Aragon) takes center stage with the rest of the cast of SIX. Photo by Brett Beiner.

That SIX is going to Broadway was foreordained; a more interesting question is whether or not it actually empowers its characters. For all that the show is musically interesting, there’s not a lot of actually getting to know the six queens when they’re mostly granted some one-liners, a monologue, and a song each. (The runtime is only 75 minutes.) If you view this as a concert, that’s not bad; if you view it as a musical, that’s rather thin. Check your expectations at the door and you will have a better time of it, because the show is a lot of fun to experience in the moment.

One aspect that will hopefully be addressed in the Broadway transfer is the surplus of high-powered LED lights that suddenly and squarely blast the audience in the eye. This much-used effect was both headache-inducing and bonafide painful, and its use without the normal programming safeguards was a major oversight by lighting designer Tim Deiling.

Should you see SIX? If you’d like to see a hot musical concert production that mashes up pop diva styles with a little bit of British history, it’s easy to recommend. The soundtrack is quite the hit, the dancing and onstage repartee are fun to watch, and you still have time left in your evening to sneak in dessert or a walk through Rice Park. Who knows – you might be inspired to crack open a book and become better-acquainted with the real-life Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, or Catherine Parr.

The cast of SIX. Photo by Brett Beiner.

SIX runs through December 22 at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, MN.

Basil Considine