Six: The Musical – The Tudor Ladies Tell Their Tale

Ladies and Gentlemen, from across the pond in London and currently showing in Chicago, we bring you a musical revue where the wives of Henry VIII take the stage!

I love finding new musicals through the Internet. Even though I don’t have an obsession with medieval history and only a vague knowledge of the Tudors, I fell in love at first listen with this album.

The premise of this show is basic: The six wives of King Henry VIII (Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Catherine Parr) are updated into a modern day all-girl group with each of them having a song about their lives and their marriage. It’s basically Hamilton crossed with Chicago.

Since the musical only just came to the US, I’m gonna give y’all a track-by-track review/analysis.

  1. Ex-Wives: It starts with the famous rhyme “Divorced, Beheaded, Died, Divorced, Beheaded, Survived.” This introduces the six ladies and gives everyone a sneak preview of what each lady is like. This is where all the comparisons to Chicago comes from.
  2. No Way: Catherine of Aragon, a woman of integrity. Her track is basically like if Beyonce collaborated with Gloria Estefan to make a break up track. From what little I know about the actual Catherine of Aragon, I think it captures her spirit quite well.
  3. Don’t Lose Ur Head: This track became very popular through the app Tik Tok. It’s a party girl song with a Brit Pop beat. Anne is an opinionated lady, but her opinions and alleged flirtations with other men led to her eventual beheading. But she is #sorrynotsorry.
  4. Heart of Stone: Jane Seymour’s track is very reminiscent of an Adele song, a heartbreaking ballad about how she will be strong no matter what. The fact that she dies after giving birth to Edward just makes this song even more heartbreaking.
  5. House of Holbein: A Eurovision style track about how Anne of Cleves gets a cosmetic makeover for her portrait. It’s a total mood whiplash after Heart of Stone, but it’s also a great commentary on how women got prettied up back in the days before Photoshop and plastic surgery.
  6. Get Down: First of all, Genesis Lynea sounds exactly like Estelle. (In the very slim chance that Estelle reads this…You need to do a cover of this track!) This track gets compared to female hip hop acts. There’s a bit of Beyonce, a bit of Lady Gaga, a bit of Nicki Minaj, Charlie XCX. It’s a very fun track, capturing the vibes of modern day trap mixed with hip hop and techno.
  7. All You Wanna Do: My inner Britney fangirl is in love with this track. But this “Womanizer” track goes tragic fast because you quickly realize that Katherine Howard was used by men throughout her life all she wants is to be loved for her, not for her body. What REALLY hurts is that there are probably a lot of girls out there who can relate to this.
  8. I Don’t Need Your Love: Catherine Parr was in love with someone before she married Henry and she’s been married twice before. But aside from her marriage, Catherine Parr has her own legacy, writing her own reflections on Scripture (which is actually true). This becomes a bridge to the ending, with all the ladies realizing that they can define themselves separate from their marriage to one man.
  9. Six: The title track and my personal favorite. Taking the sound to modern day pop, the six ex-wives rewrite a happy ending for themselves. Catherine joined a nunnery and became a gospel choir singer. Anne Boleyn remixed “Greensleeves” and now collaborates with Shakespeare (Historically inaccurate given their age difference, but if you imagine an afterlife AU, it works). Jane Seymour gets a huge family and makes a band with them. Anne of Cleves takes up with the artist that painted her portrait and goes on tour in Prussia. Catherine Howard becomes a singer, foregoing the musician who took advantage of her. Catherine Parr brings the band together.

Yes, this musical is a feminist revisionist history thing. But it WORKS. It gives you a glimpse of the lives of the wives beyond how their marriage with Henry ended. They deserved a happier ending and in this musical, they finally get it.

If you live in the Chicago area, Six is currently showing until June 30 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. For now, I’m just gonna play this album on repeat!

The Crown: Elizabeth’s Vocation

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One of Netflix’s latest hit original series is The Crown, a historical drama centering on the life of Queen Elizabeth II as she deals with the loss of her father and transitions into her new life as the Queen of England. There are many things that I liked about this series, but this post will look into how the duty of being queen reminded me of having a vocation and how that vocation affected Elizabeth’s relationships with her husband as well as her sister.

The Queenly Vocation

The word “vocation” in Catholic circles often calls to mind people who become priests or nuns. Some people believe that God created us with a certain vocation in mind. In Elizabeth’s case, she knew that she would be queen eventually because it’s a duty inherited by her birthright and bestowed on her upon the death of her father. The coronation ceremony shown in “Smoke and Mirrors” reminded me of the sacrament of Holy Orders or Confirmation, as Elizabeth is anointed with oil on her hands, chest, and head.

One aspect to having a religious vocation is that sometimes, a person’s name is changed. This was the case for Elizabeth’s father and her uncle, who took on different names upon becoming king. Elizabeth chose to keep hers. However, she still goes through a different sort of change in her identity. Towards the end of the 2nd episode “Hyde Park Corner,” Elizabeth receives a letter from her grandmother, Queen Mary. In that letter, Queen Mary tells Elizabeth that “Elizabeth Mountbatten” has been replaced by “Elizabeth Regina,” her persona as Queen and tells her that “The crown must win, must always win.”

This brings me to the third aspect of the show that reminded me of having a religious vocation: the vow of obedience. While Elizabeth is both married and rich, she was still expected to obey the duties given to her. Upon her coronation, Elizabeth vowed to maintain and preserve the traditions and laws of her country as well as the Church of England. The vow of obedience to God and country is what provides the main conflict between Elizabeth and her loved ones, particularly her husband and her sister.

Queen, Wife, and Sister

The main reason I decided to watch The Crown was because I wanted to see how Matt Smith would be outside of the world of science fiction. Prince Philip Mountbatten aka The Duke of Edinburgh is Elizabeth’s husband and for a while, it’s clear that the two of them love each other. However, Elizabeth’s duties as queen put major restrictions on Prince Philip’s life. Gender roles have been reversed as Elizabeth is the one with the “breadwinning” career while Philip is stuck trying to make the most of his life as the “homemaker” and is often seen playing with the kids.

The marriage takes a great strain towards the latter half of the first season as Philip has to give up his surname, the house he and Elizabeth bought and had renovated,  and was extremely limited in what kind of leisurely hobbies he could pursue. He was still allowed to socialize, but he still wanted to be the head of the household, even if Elizabeth was Queen. By the time the first season ends, Philip is heading to Australia to help out with the Olympics, feeling like his role of husband has been erased.

Worse still, however, is how Elizabeth’s role of queen affects her relationship with her sister Margaret. From the beginning of the season, Margaret is in the midst of an affair with the married Peter Townsend. Even though Elizabeth wants her sister to be happy, she couldn’t allow Margaret and Peter to marry.

While I understand Margaret’s desires to stand out from her older sister’s shadow, I honestly think that her relationship with Peter is foolish, even if you consider him to be the “innocent party” in his divorce. Margaret is a woman in her early 20s and is already set to marry when most women her age with her personality would be playing the field in terms of dating. I’m not saying she should play fast and loose with her heart, but her belief that she will never love someone as much as she loves Peter is a foolish one. I also didn’t like how she treated her sister and undermined Elizabeth’s love for their father.

While I don’t think I’ll ever be an Anglophile the way that others are, The Crown pulls me into the drama of Elizabeth’s life because it shows how being the queen is a unique, Anglican version of a vocation and how that vocation will affect the lives of Elizabeth’s family, for better or for worse. I can’t wait to see Season 2 and I hope that Elizabeth and Peter will make an effort to keep their marriage strong.