Review | ‘Six: The Musical’ at the Des Moines Civic Center is an energetic feminist reclamation

On Saturday, Feb. 18, the touring cast of the Broadway musical, ‘Six,’ performed at the Des Moines Civic Center, entertaining and educating audiences with vivacious songs and feminist messages.


Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY

Jun 12, 2022; New York, NY, USA; The cast of Six: The Musical performs during the 75th Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on Sunday, June 12, 2022.

Stella Shipman, Arts Reporter

Having been an avid fan of the “Six” musical soundtrack for quite some time now, I thought I knew what to expect when I took my seat for the live performance at the Des Moines Civic Center.

As it turned out, seeing the performance live was a completely different experience than listening to the catchy songs on Spotify. Filled with humor, female empowerment, and dazzling light displays, this show was many times better than I could have imagined — six times better, to be exact.

“Six” is a musical that has graced stages since the summer of 2017 when it was originally written. It was first performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, presented by Cambridge University Musical Theatre Society. Following rave reviews and a number of awards, the production traveled across the country, making its way to Broadway in October 2021.

The show follows the stories of six historical figures: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Catherine Parr. Each of these unique women shared one thing in common — they were wed to the infamously ill-tempered Henry VIII.

Unfortunately, Henry VIII’s reputation as a Tudor king overshadowed the legacies of his wives, who were emotionally abused, and then abandoned to history. ‘Six: The Musical’ returned to these women their voices and afforded them the respect they deserved in life and death.

Catherine of Aragon, played by Gerianne Pérez, sang an upbeat and savvy song about how she was refusing to grant King Henry annulment based on the fact that she had been previously married to his brother and had been unable to produce any surviving sons.

Anne Boleyn, arguably the most notable of King Henry’s wives because of the part she had to play in the English Reformation during the 1500s, followed Catherine of Aragon as Henry’s chronologically second wife, telling the story of how she became Henry’s wife and was eventually beheaded for adultery.

Played by Zan Berube, Anne Boleyn was characterized as sassy and boldly sexual, and her song translated that well with pep and youthful wit.

Jane Seymour, played by Amina Faye, broke the trend of poppy music with a beautiful love ballad to Henry, grieving the life she could never share with him or her son because of her untimely death.

Anna of Cleves, played by Jana Larell Glover, picked up the tempo again with a song about how she owned her divorce from Henry by moving to her very own castle and living out her days in wealth.

Henry’s fifth wife, Katherine Howard, was also beheaded for adultery. Her song, though just as buoyant as most of her predecessors,’ carried a heavy message about the objectification of women.

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Rounding out the set with her slower song of survival, Catherine Parr, played by Sydney Parra, explained how despite surviving her marriage without dying or divorcing Henry, she was separated from the man she truly loved.

The show was hugely entertaining with jokes that left audiences breathless with laughter, incredible vocal performances by every cast member, and typically high-energy music produced by an amazing all-female band playing live on stage.

The performance was also visually stunning, with sparkling costumes that identified each character and light displays collaborating with the music.

In essence, “Six” is a feminist musical. Throughout the performance were references to patriarchal systems and structures still in place today that the characters actively attempt to break away from, ultimately finding friendship and support among each other as women united against the injustice of their marriages and their untold stories.