NEW BLOG! Six the Musical West End 2022 Cast change final show and after party.
What started as a uni project that took the Edinburgh fringe by storm, Six the Musical had gone on to win Oliver nominations and Tony Awards.
It has now been seen by audiences in the West End and across the UK and Ireland, Amsterdam, Australia and New Zealand, North America and Broadway, as well as being sailed around the world for cruise audiences.
And how? Because it’s f***ing incredible.
Even since I first heard the Original cast recording, I have not been able to get these songs out of my head. Written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, who went on to become the youngest female director in Broadway’s history. This show is a triumph by conception. Clever, witty, authentic and devilishly good. What makes this show so iconic is it’s incredible design.
The costumes that won Gabriella Slade her Tony, are now replicated by drag queens and fans across the world, the 32 year old designer even went on to create the costumes for the Spice Girls comeback tour.
Six is something incredibly unique. A retelling or the untold stories of the six wives of Henry VIII. The lyrics are packed with historical accuracy, yet updated and given a new tongue it is no surprise why it has such a strong appeal to teens. But even as a 40 year old man, I am equally obsessed.
Writers Toby and Lucy give a classic tail a modern twist, establishing the Queens as modern day pop stars competing in a talent contest. Each Queen is loosely modelled and framed around iconic popstars, and each given a different style to sing and inhabit. What makes this show work, is predominately this frame work. The sounds, yet new, are reminiscent of pop templates that feel familiar and catchy. The genius is within the lyrics that cohesively blend historical fact with modern pop culture. The Queens are reimagined as if they existed today, and their stories freshened up to feel contemporary.
Under the surface of these modern pop anthems the writing also explores brilliantly the social issues of then and now. Backed by an accomplished all female band, this show is Girl Power, and huddles you in to this world were the Queens rule.
Taking inspiration, I’m sure, from Hamiliton, the other genius aspect to this show, is presenting the Queens as multi racial. From conception, the sound and look of each Queen was left in part down to the performer that embodied them. Bringing something different to to each casting, no two Queens have ever been the same. Bringing their own accents to their characters, anyone who has ever played any of the Queens has been encouraged and welcome and even chosen specifically to offer a new blend and character to these historical figures.
It means that you will rarely see the same performance twice, as fans now play musical-bingo by ticking off every formation and line up of alternate and swing performers. The show manages to evolve because of this, and always feel fresh and new with every staging.
I had seen this show in Edinburgh, the Rose Theatre, the Arts Theatre, the Apollo theatre and even Hampton Court, where the Olivier nominated original line up were reunited as a warm up before recording their pro shot performance at it’s new West End home of the Vaudeville Theatre. Six the Musical-movie has yet to be given a release date, but in the mean time, with six productions around the world, and now a Broadway cast recording, there is no shortage of ways to see this show.
For me, this was my first time visiting Six at the Vaudeville Theatre, and one of my most anticipated.
With talented friends spawn across the industry and because of the popularity of this show, it was no surprise when I soon had friends jumping at the chance to be part of this show, and I have since known many Queens to wear those crowns.
I have probably found it more exciting than them each time a friend I know gets a part in this show, and this cast was no exception. I was delighted when it was announced that both Amy Di Bartolomeo and Claudia Kariuki were picking up the microphone. Both of whom I have interviewed before for my channel, and absolutely adore.
I had promised to go along to see both of them take to their thrones, but as with anything time escaped me, and before I knew it, they had been in the show an entire year and although Claudia had decided to stay on, Amy had announced that she was leaving. I had no time but the present to catch her reign.
Amy along with Amanda Lindgren, Tsemaye Bob-Egbe, and Meesha Turner, were scheduled to perform their final show on Sunday 16th October, and my gorgeous friend Mark, their head of marketing had kindly got me a ticket.
I could not wait.
I had been pretty busy with filming since returning from a recent holiday to Italy, and had only just relaunched That Stagey Blog with a new logo and website to coincide with the launch of That Philip Dehany, my new lifestyle blog.
I was over the moon when I realised that Six would be the first video and blog to kick off my relaunch.
I was still riding high on the warmth and support following my first blog post where I came out as HIV+, and had been out with friends the night before. It required a nap on the afternoon before making my way to the Strand for 7pm.
I couldn’t resist grabbing a glass of Prosecco to toast the ladies, whilst I browsed the new range of merchandise. I then took to my seat and was delighted to be nestled next to West End starlet and friend Kayla Carter. Kayla appeared in the production of Rent at the Hope Mill Theatre with original Six Queens Millie O’Connell and Maiya Quansah-Breed. As I sat with Kayla, I wondered to myself how long it would be before she put on a crown to join the show, and I wondered which Queen she would suit.
The iconic Tudor sound was filling the theatre with the specially made pre show music, wetting our appetite for the main event. As I’ve already said, and incase I wasn’t clear.
I LOVE THIS SHOW!
Although I have now lost count of how many times I have seen it, I do feel lucky to have witnessed the show’s evolution. Subtle changes have transformed the meek production in to a glitzy showstopper, yet without jeopardising the integrity of its original roots. The costumes have had gentle upgrades, and a few revisions to script and songs fleshes out the show to the full spectacle it is now.
I don’t mind saying, but I am obsessed with the song ‘No Way’, performed on the original cast recording by Renee Lamb. It holds a firm position in my most played on Apple Music. I also don’t mind that I am obsessed with Amy Di Bartolomeo. If you ever get the pleasure of meeting or spending time with her, you will never forget her. Her eyes and personalty burst out of her tiny frame along with that voice. She is exceptional, and if I wasn’t gay, I would fancy the pants off her. If you have chance watch my old interview with her that we recorded ahead of her solo show at the Crazy Coq. Although I had postponed the ring light to make us both look good, Amy didn’t need any help from me, she truly is stunning and equally hilarious.
Watch it here:
As soon as she rifted her way though the opening number, I knew the audience this evening at Six were in for a treat. Sure enough she transformed the rendition of ‘No Way’ throwing in notes that I did not even know existed.
The audience, I’m sure, was made up of supporting friends and fans eager to get one last look at this line up before they retire, and for me the bitter sweet realty sunk in that this would be the first and last time that I would see Amy performing as Catherine of Aragon. I was already kicking myself as I relished in how good she was. I should have known to come sooner, I would have been here every week to see this star. That’s the only way I can describe Amy. An absolute star. Not only is her vocal control and voice flawless but she is an incredible actress. Her choices and performance was captivating, as I couldn’t take my eyes off her. Like I said, if I wasn’t gay I’d be banging down her door for a date.
My appetite was well and truly drenched now, as Amy had thrown down the gauntlet to the other Queens to impress us. If the show wasn’t already designed as a friendly competition, Amy had just turned it in to one.
Next up was the one you’ve been waiting for (wink) Anne Boleyn, with again another favourite song of mine. Who am I kidding? I love all these songs. Styled on a Lily Allen song (or so I’ve always thought) I developed a huge soft spot for Millie O’Connell who originated this role, and her shoes were always going to be hard to fill. Currently touring as Cher no less, although I will always miss Millie. I have to say I was incredibly happy with Amanda Lindgren. She’s an absolute pocket rocket. Again proving that these parts were never designed to be defined by accent, or look. Amanda is British-Swedish, and she absolutely nailed the comical aspect of Anne Boleyn that Millie and the writing established.
The audience, recognising that this was each of these Queen’s last show, gave each and all lengthly standing ovations after each of their songs. And each was well and truly deserved. With two down, I was already beginning to realise that this was an incredible line up.
Next in line to the throne was another pal of mine, one if the Queens who will be staying on for another year. The fabulous Claudia Kariuki. Like Amy, I first met Claudia singing at Kinky Kabaret in Soho’s Freedom bar. Claudia’s CV is incredible, chalking up parts in some of my all time favourite shows including Wicked, and Priscilla Queen of the Desert. Claudia is at the top of her game, and I’d say she can easily pick any job she wants, so it really it testament to Six the Musical that she’s found it impossible to leave just yet.
Taking over from Natalie May Paris, who was the longest reining original Queen, Claudia too had big shoes to fill, as so many people had seen Natalie in this role, and on the album. Performing easily the most beautiful song in the show, Heart of Stone. Not too dissimilar to Demi Lovato’s Skyscraper, or any of Adele or Jessie I’d better ballads.
Claudia could sing anything and make it sound beautiful, and this was no exception. Bringing the gut wrenching emotion to the surface, she too was captivating and note perfect, and although Claudia wasn’t leaving she also deserved the ovation she got.
I also have interviewed Claudia previously before her own solo show at the Crazy Coq and whilst she was touring in Priscilla Queen of the Desert.
Watch it here:
I was not even half way through the show and I was already a mess. This show is just such a perfectly assembled masterpiece.
We were next taken to Germany with Dionne Ward-Anderson as Anna of of Cleves. Marking the half way point in the show, as a way of balance Anna of Cleves actually gets two songs devoted to her, although the first ‘Haus of Holbein’ is admittedly more a group number than a solo song. It is a Euro pop romp which is very fun, and like all the songs, very catchy. It begins to unveil the history and story of Anna of Cleves which then leads us in to her triumphant solo number ‘Get Down’ performed on the album by stage and screen star Genesis Lynea, who even returned once as a special guest to cover the role alongside writer Toby Marlow as Catherine Parr when the pair had to save the show and fill in for absences early in its run at the Arts theatre. This was before the producers appointed an army of swings and alternates to prevent this from every happening again.
Watch the video:
‘Get Down’ is a brilliant nod to Beyonce, with a thick beat and a lot of sass. That every actress has brought in abidance to this role, with Dionne being no exception. The additional costume change that has been woven into this segment brings the house down. Dionne relishes in the part bringing out every aspect of funk and sex that the song offers, nailing every one liner with her brilliance and comic timing. This show really is testament to its writers that enable these Queens to identify with each song and bring out every nuance. Dionne Ward-Anderson, like Claudia is staying on for another year, which is brilliant as I already have a ticket to their press night in January when I can’t wait to see her again.
We then move on to Tsemaye Bob-Egbe turning it out as Katherine Howard. This is where the writing really ramps up and demonstrates how intelligent these lyrics are. It wasn’t until after first few watches, that I even fully understood what this song was actually about, thanks to the brilliant staging and choreography. I thought it was just another catchy throw away track, but at its heart it tackles the very relevant topic of consent and physical abuse. Pretty Women star Aimie Atkinson originated the part dying pink streaks into her own hair. Now, the pink hair is a trademark of the character but any actress playing K Howard is now afforded hair pieces. I have had two close friends play this part before, Jodie Steele and Sophie Issacs. Tsemaye breaks the mould by being the first black principle in the part, and absolutely nails it. Although a dark subject matter, K Howard has many funny lines and Tsemaye lands every one, whilst bringing a new flavour to this Queen.
It’s exactly why this show could, and should run for years, each accomplished performer that wears each crown, reinvents each part and in turn rejuvenates the production. This show will never get old, and is one that you could easily watch with repeat performances. Equally it is nestled into a modest sized theatre where it sits comfortably in its setting. Not too ambitious that it can’t fill seats, but just the right size to stage its pop concert style.
Meesha Turner then completes the set playing the final wife Catherine Parr. A role she says the had her eyes set on since Drama school. Its incredible to think that this show, now five years on, has in that time secured itself as a firm fixture in the West End with kids now training in musical theatre specifically to get into this show. It’s true many of us with similarly inspired by our first West End shows. Mine were Joseph and Rent, which I saw when I was 14, before performing songs from Les Mis for my GCSE’s. With the rights to Six the Musical now being released for school productions, its gratifying to know that schools of teenagers will be performing their own versions of the show across the country.
Meanwhile back in the West End, Meesha was giving one last performance as the surviving Queen Cathy Parr with a knock out rendition ‘I Don’t Need Your Love’ putting her own stamp on the song that I last saw performed live by the original Queen Maiya Quansah-Breed at Hampton Court. Maiya broke the Internet with clips of her rifts circulating social media. For her last night Meesha, like all the Queens before her, did not hold back, and sounded delicious.
Again I was left kicking myself that I won’t ever get to see this line up and these Queens on this stage again. I wish I could pop next door to borrow Marty Mcfly’s time machine to drive back 12 months and book every available ticket left. Which wouldn’t be many. Rightly so this show sells out with most performances and I cannot shout and scream enough about it. If you can you must beg steal or borrow a ticket if you haven’t already seen it, and if like many of us you are a repeat attender, then what the hell, go and see it again, because you know you’re going to fall in love all over again and come away with a brand new favourite Queen song.
Six the Musical is now booking until 29th October 2023. Although I doubt it will be going anywhere.
After the performance, I was invited by royal appointment to join, the Queens along with all the many people that make this show happen to celebrate the departing Queens at a knees up around the corner at Mrs Riots. A venue, I adore. Famed for their stagey West End Monday nights, Christmas Panto and Drag Brunches, the piano and microphones are in regular use, whilst customers enjoy the cocktails and range of low fat pizzas.
I was the first to arrive, and tucked straight into one hot from the pizza oven in the basement, I smiled as I saw that they had created a special cocktail menu with six new cocktails devoted to the departing Queens.
I mingled with other guests and chatted to writers Toby and Lucy before the Queens arrived in spectacular fashion. There had been some delayed as by all accounts stage door has been manic, and the Queens had rightly offered plenty of time to spend with fans and well wishers before coming across to celebrate and let their hair down at their party.
It left just enough time for them to mingle and cut their cake, before they continued on to another West End Venue.
The night had been spectacular, and I was very honoured to have been asked to attend, and to help celebrate and bare witness to the incredible array of talent that this show cultivates and produces. Each of the original Queens and every actress since has gone on to carve themselves and array of brilliant work, including forming their own band SVN.
I can’t wait to see what these retiring Queens go on to do, and to see a new crop of talent when I return to watch the show again in the New Year.
To book tickets to Six the Musical visit:
NEW Video! Six the Musical. Megasix and interviews from West End 2022 Cast change final show and after party.
Full video available on YouTube:
Follow them on social media:
@AmyDiBartolomeo @Claudia_Kariuki, @thisistsemaye @TurnerMeesha
@AmyDiBartolomeo @Amandili @ClaudiaKariuki @thisisTsemaye @TurnerMeesha @Dionne.Ward.Anderson
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