Musical ‘Six’ is a snappy, subversive shot of fun in S.F.

Audiences have been losing their heads for “Six,” the Tony-winning House of Tudor tuner, since its 2017 debut at the famed Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

A splashy homage to the sextet of wives of Henry VIII, the coterie of queens who were famously abused and/or beheaded by the monstrous monarch, this bedazzled spoof of 16th-century sexual politics holds court at San Francisco’s Orpheum Theatre through March 19.

In a cheeky deconstruction of the past, “Six” turns these dethroned queens into torch-singing pop divas bedecked in glitter and sequins.

From the regal Catherine of Aragon (Khaila Wilcoxon), the first and longest wife, and the badass Anne Boleyn (East Bay native Storm Lever), to the besotted Jane Seymour (Jasmine Forsberg), the favorite because she produced a male heir, these booty-shaking beauties do not appear to be victims of patriarchal oppression. At least not at first glance.

Steeped in the vibe of the Beyonce era, they shimmy, strut and sashay around the concert-like staging — complete with a live band on stage — with an anachronistic sense of empowerment that rewrites history to make the women the stars of the narrative.

To be honest, all that sparkly girl power can initially come off as a tad empty, a superficial romp tailor-made for a society more suited to selfies than subtlety. But just when that fluffy “Bridgerton”-style revisionism transforming the martyrs into megastars, starts to rub some of us the wrong way, the plot thickens and “Six” really starts to sizzle.

Smartly created by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, the snappy 85-minute show is fast, furious and funny but it’s also slyly subversive. When you least expect it, the slick TikTok aesthetic gives way to some gritty truth-telling.

The coquettish Katherine Howard (Didi Romero) tells “herstory” of being “seduced” at the age of 13 and then traded from man to man until she ends up with the cold-blooded king. That grim little fairy tale paves the way for Gabriella Carrillo’s formidable turn as Catherine Parr, the last queen consort, and the musical’s stiletto-sharp stroke of insight, breaking with the patriarchal tropes of yore.

The unflappable Parr spins the show’s feminist awakening, as the women push to define themselves beyond being part of this ex-wife extravaganza. In the show’s final remix, the sisters are doing it for themselves. Some muffled acoustics take the edge off the lyrics but the intent is still clear.

“Six” explodes its own origin story to let us see just how pathetic it is when society pits women against each other, scrambling for the crumbs from a man’s table. Disrupting that tired, yet sadly highly contemporary, trope makes “Six” one to remember.

Contact Karen D’Souza at


By Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, presented by BroadwaySF

Through: March 19

Where: Orpheum Theatre, 1192 Market St., San Francisco

Running time: 85 minutes, no intermission

Tickets: $66.50-$263.50 (subject to change);

2023-02-24 22:50:37 ,

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