How might the course of Western civilization been altered if King Henry VIII had been a little less petulant and fickle in his love life?
Well, beside — among other things — helping to undermine the Catholic Church's hegemony over Great Britain through the creation of the Church of England, it would not have produced the musical "Six," which is running through Nov. 27 at the Tulsa PAC.
This show — equal parts history lesson and rock concert — brings to the fore the sextet of women that Henry wedded and bedded (usually in that order) over the course of his kingly reign. And it does so in a high-energy, tightly crafted production that is thoroughly entertaining.
Henry and his wives have been a source of fascination for centuries, in part because of the political, social and religious upheavals that took place in Henry's efforts to secure his dynastic lineage with a male heir.
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Yet the women who were, however briefly, Queen of England alongside Henry were more than mere footnotes to history. That is what Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, the musical's creators, set out to do with "Six" — to give these women the chance to claim the spotlight and tell their sides of their stories.
The central conceit of "Six" is that the wives are now a kind of girl group, who have decided to use this particular moment in time to determine which of them had the absolute worst experience as a result of being hitched to Henry.
The fact that two of them would end up beheaded at Henry's behest might seem to skew the competition somewhat, but as the evening proceeds, each of the women tells her particular tale of woe — from death in childbirth to having to give up true love to being exiled from her homeland.
As this is a competition, there's more than a touch of cattiness and snark amongst the women, as they try elevate their own sufferings while belittling those of the others. But in the end, they come to the realization that they deserved to be known as who they are as individuals, rather than as appendages to an increasingly portly monarch.
It is a simple, even obvious, lesson, but one simply needs to look as the news of today to see that women all over the world continue to be undervalued, dismissed, powerless.
That is likely why Marlow and Moss chose to make "Six" into a faux pop-rock concert, as it's one of the few genres where women can be assertive, even aggressive, in establishing and maintaining their personal and artistic autonomy.
And Marlow and Moss exploit many of the tropes and cliches of such concerts in "Six": the close-order drill style of choreography, where the simplicity of the movement gains force when performed in crisp unison; the equally choreographed lighting design (by Tim Deiling) that incorporates strobe effects, black light and all sorts of flashing things; having the on-stage four-piece participate in some of the numbers.
The program even includes the artists whom Marlow and Moss used as inspirations for the look, sound and attitudes of how they wanted the six queens to be portrayed. For example, Britney Spears is one of the pop paradigms for Katherine Howard, which is why her big number, "All You Wanna Do," and Aline Mayagoitia's performance of it, owe a great deal to Spears' hit, "Oops, I Did it Again."
The program also includes thumbnail biographies of each of the queens, and it is impressive how much history is crammed into this single-act, 80-something-minute show.
But ultimately, "Six" exists to entertain, and the cast — Mayagoitia, Gerianne Perez as Catherine of Aragon, Zan Berube as Anne Boleyn, Amina Faye as Jane Seymour, Terica Marie as Anne of Cleve, and Sydney Parra as Catherine Parr — is a collection of powerful performers who also make for an impressively tight ensemble in the group numbers "Ex-Wives" and "Six," as well as the deliriously campy "Haus of Holbein."
Faye gets the show's power ballad, "Heart of Stone," while Berube has a lot of kittenish, campy fun with the aptly titled "Don't Lose Ur Head," and Marie tears up the stage with the raucous "Get Down."