“Nice neck, by the way.”
During the 80-minute Broadway musical Six, this brief line—delivered to a fellow actor by 28-year-old Andrea Macasaet with what quickly becomes her character’s signature petulance—brought down the house the February evening I saw the performance. Macasaet plays Anne Boleyn, so you’ll understand the uproar.
Before it opened, buzz around Six’s Broadway debut was strong—$12 million in advance ticket sales strong—thanks in part to successful runs in Chicago and on London’s West End and the unprecedented popularity of the show’s studio recording, which—by February 2020—had been streamed 100,000,000 times on Spotify and Apple Music. Some referred to the musical, written by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss while still students at Cambridge University, as a feminist Hamilton of sorts, which isn’t wildly off base in some respects. Like Hamilton, Six cracks open the dusty history books and brings its source material up to date with unapologetic anachronism while sharing its disregard for historical accuracy in terms of casting.
But what makes Six so unique is its framing device. Formatted as a one-night only concert—complete with a female band on stage—the six-woman cast of varying ethnicities and body types each play one of King Henry the VIII’s scorned wives fighting for the audience’s input on, essentially, who had it the worst being married to such a creep. During the hour-and-twenty-miniute spectacle, each queen slinks to the forefront as a rotating protagonist to fill us in on her backstory in the loose style of a specific pop star. You’ll get Beyonce vibes from wife number one, Catherine of Aragon, and shades of Adele, Nicki, Rihanna, Britney, Ariana, and Alicia from the others.
All are superb, but it’s hard not to pay extra attention to the razor-sharp comic timing and testy disposition of wife number two played by Filipino-Canadian actress Macasaet. Her Boleyn—the king’s second wife who was, as we’re constantly reminded, beheaded in 1536—takes cues from early 2000s sneer pop reminiscent of Avril, Miley, and Lily Allen. Her big number “Don’t Lose Ur Head” tells of a sexy young French girl who arrives in England to marry a horny king only to, well, lose her head. Macasaet’s portrayal mixes mannerisms of the pop stars she’s embodying with valley girl nuances that would certainly allow her to sit with the likes of Elle Woods, Cher Horowitz, or Regina George. (“Everybody chill, its totes God’s will,” is another crowd pleaser.)
The show’s Broadway buzz was dimmed in March 2020 when the then-governor shut down all theater in New York and the cast of Six got the news on what was meant to be opening night. Tragic for a young cast, most of whom were making their Broadway debut, but the music—pure, uncut, can’t-get-it-out-of-ur-head pop—took on a new life on streaming platforms and social media, and by the time Six reopened in October 2021, Macasaet said scores of young people in the audience would hear a song from the show and attribute it to TikTok.