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!

Historical Fact vs. Historical Fiction: Sons of Liberty, Part 3

The last episode of the Sons of Liberty mini-series begins where the last one left off: at the battle of Lexington and Concord. The militia were able to fend off the soldiers. William Dawes visits James Barrett, who has been helping Paul, John, and Sam, and hides the weapons with the help of the minutemen. Major John Pitcairn, played by Kevin Ryan (Laredo, Copper) raids the farm and turns it inside-out in search of weapons, only to find a musket ball that Barrett claims is a nostalgic token. Revere and the minutemen make their move and send the British running to Boston.

The episode follows two storylines: The Battle of Bunker Hill and the meetings in the Second Continental Congress. At a loss for gaining help from the other colonies, Hancock and the Adams cousins turn to Ben Franklin for help. The four of them realize that they are on the verge of creating a new nation. John Adams, Ben Franklin, and John Hancock talk politics and make deals with the other members of Congress. Sam Adams, however, is restless and impatient.

I was kind of disappointed that they didn’t feature Colonel Prescott in the scene at Bunker Hill. He wasn’t established as a character in the previous episodes, but even the kids shows were quick to point out the real meaning of the battle: that even though the battle was a loss for the colonials, they were able to stand their ground against seemingly impossible odds. And even if Colonel Prescott wasn’t there, couldn’t one of the characters say “Hold your fire til you see the whites of their eyes”?

But like the scene with the First Continental Congress, the scene was more focused on the drama, particularly the death of Dr. Joseph Warren. It’s never stated how Dr. Warren died except that it happened as the British troops were gaining in. Because they included the storyline of the affair between Dr. Warren and Mrs. Gage, General Thomas Gage (played by Marton Csokas aka Lord Celeborn from Lord of the Rings). took it upon himself to kill Dr. Warren and rub the death in his wife’s face, punishing her for her adultery by sending her on the first boat to England. It kind of sucks, in my opinion, that the only prominent female character in this show ends up being a victim in the end. It may be historical fiction, but as long as they’re pushing things, I would’ve liked to have seen Mrs. Gage run away from her husband.

The news of Bunker Hill gets to the Congress. Washington volunteers to lead what will eventually become the Continental Army. Sam Adams, still restless and impatient, walks out about the same time. Hancock begs Sam to stay, but Sam is tired of politics. He rides out, but changes his mind. He also shows that he cleans up very nicely and is able to hold his own politically.

General Gage meets with Washington and politely asks him to let him and his soldiers leave Boston. Washington complies, but plans to follow Gage and his troops to New York City. Even as Boston parties, Revere and Washington know that things aren’t over.

The scenes that follow the Second Continental Congress go by quickly, with Jefferson being nothing more than a quick cameo. Instead, it focuses on John Hancock completing his character arc by taking Ben’s advice to reside over the Congress and Sam Adams completing his story arc by giving an epic speech about the necessity of independence when the idea of declaring independence from England gets put into motion. I understand that the story has been following Sam Adams and John Hancock, but Jefferson was kind of important. Then again, there’s already 1776, which captured the drama of the creation of the Declaration in a poignant, moving way. I would’ve liked to have seen John Dickinson enlisting in Washington’s Army or at least telling Congress of his intent to enlist. They also had the opportunity to have Ben Franklin give his quote of “We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”

I always wondered why, if the finished document of the Declaration was finished and the motion to declare independence from Britain was adopted on July 2nd, we celebrate on July 4th. I found the answer on the History Channel website. It turns out that there is something written on the back of the Declaration, but it’s not a treasure map as National Treasure indicated. Instead, there is just this: “Original Declaration of Independence dated 4th July 1776.”

Once the Declaration was finished and signed, Washington reads the most well-known portion to his army. The Continental Army prepares to take on the British in New York City and the episode ends with Paul Revere carrying the Continental Flag as the battle begins. The scene is so epic, it almost makes me forget how the battle actually turns out.

Overall, I honestly wish that the Sons of Liberty series could’ve been longer. I liked how the story started with Sam Adams, but the events that follow the uprisings in Boston call for more of an ensemble cast. It was clear that the series was more focused on drama than historical accuracy, but the story is enough to intrigue people to look more into it.

Historical Fact vs Historical Fiction: Sons of Liberty Part 2

The episode opens up with Sam and his friends preparing for the Boston Tea Party. John Hancock is appalled. The event goes with a lot more drama, complete with a confrontation with British Soldiers. Hancock prevents the soldiers from killing Sam Adams and making him a martyr. (Wise choice, too.) Then the scene transitions to Parliament, where Ben Franklin is discussing the incident with the Prime Minister. I won’t critique Breaking Bad‘s Dean Norris’s performance yet, but I will give him points for giving the title drop.

There are two storylines in the episode. The first major story line follows the events that lead up to the Midnight Ride of Paul Revere (and Samuel Prescott and William Dawes). A subplot of this storyline follows Dr. Warren, General Gage, and Margaret Gage. The second storyline is the formation of the First Continental Congress, which will eventually lead into tonight’s episode.

 

Parliament passes what we now call The Intolerable Acts and send in General Gage and his men. They establish that they are here to stay by searching homes and establishments of the rebels. One of General Gage’s men tries to make Sam Adams an offer he can’t refuse, but given that he’s not mafia, Adams refuses the offer. The next day, everyone in Boston is ordered to the town square to watch a public flogging of one of the men who participated in the Boston Tea Party. After the flogging, Dr. Joseph Warren takes care of the man who was flogged and meets Margaret Gage, played by Emily Berrington (whom I recognize as Simone Al-Harazi from 24: Live Another Day). Mrs. Gage is a colonist who married Gage after the French-Indian War.

General Gage seizes John Hancock’s house, which leads Hancock to finally joining up with Sam Adams and his men. Hancock works with Sam and John Adams on organizing the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia. While the meeting had a bad turnout, it doesn’t take long before I realized that the scene was really meant to be the establishing moment for the Father of our Country. The soon-to-be General Washington, played by Jason O’Mara (from CBS’s series Vegas) walks in with this very authoritative air that made everyone in the room shut up and pay attention to him. Unfortunately, the Congress decides to create a letter to King George III instead of helping Massachusetts create an army. Washington suggests that Hancock and the Adams cousins create an army of their own. And thus the minutemen/militia was born.

Sam, Paul, and Dawes sneak into an enemy camp to steal gunpowder. The mission is successful, with Paul leaving and lighting a trail of gunpowder to make the rest of the powder in the silo explode. This sends the soldiers for a search-and-arrest mission, with Gage planning to arrest Sam and John Hancock and have them hanged.

Meanwhile, Dr. Warren and Mrs. Gage’s friendship turns into an affair. I checked the official site and Wikipedia. There is no evidence that the two of them had an affair, just that Mrs. Gage might have been a patriot spy and, since Dr. Warren was Gage’s doctor, used him as her messenger. The idea that Mrs. Gage could’ve been a spy is speculative at best and her affair with Dr. Warren is purely fictitious. Yes, General Gage had his own affairs and abused her, but sleeping with Dr. Warren doesn’t exactly make her any better. It’s portrayed in a sympathetic light, but to be honest, Dr. Warren and the Gages are all in the wrong. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t like it when adultery is glamorized in media and I apply that to everyone involved.

The last part of the episode shows Paul and Dawes heading off to Lexington and Concord on the famous midnight ride. The two of them split up, with Dawes heading to Concord and Paul heading to warn Sam and Hancock about the soldiers. Unfortunately, Paul gets stopped by soldiers. He fights them off and gets as far from the soldiers as he can on his horse. He makes it to Lexington in time to get Sam and Hancock out. The minutemen prepared themselves for their first battle. The episode ends with the Battle of Lexington and the shot heard round the world.

If the first episode of the series was a lot of buildup, this episode could be called transitional. I’m glad that it focused mostly on the creation of the Boston minutemen and the famous Midnight Ride, but they left out Samuel Prescott and didn’t show Dawes at Concord. However, the site is quick to point out the reality of the situation, so I’ll give credit where credit is due. Just don’t show this series to the kids. The show’s rating is somewhere between PG-13 and a soft R as far as language and content.

Tonight’s episode centers on the creation of the Declaration and the start of the Revolution. What exactly happens then and what happens after is for you to find out. I’ll end my recap tomorrow.