Henry VIII’s wives from ‘SIX’ remix 500 years of historical heartbreak

The North American Tour Boleyn Company of ‘SIX’.
Joan Marcus

The only thing more famous than having King Henry VIII vividly kill off his wives Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Catherine Parr is how the British-based, Broadway-bound musical comedy from Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss told their stories in song.

That would be ‘SIX’ – a Tony Award winner for Best Original Score – which plays at the Academy of Music on the Kimmel Cultural Campus from March 21 to April 9, with each of its wifely characters inspired by famous pop singers such as Catherine of Aragon’s Beyoncé/J-Lo mix and Catherine Parr’s Alicia Keys influence.

“Opening this tour in Las Vegas has been perfect for ‘SIX’ – the vibe of the show fit the Vegas Strip like a glove,” said Sydney Parra, who plays HVIII wife Catherine Parr.

Talking about their fandom of the Tony Award-winning ‘SIX’ long before their auditions, Gerianne Perez – the Catharine of Aragon of the musical – fell in love with the accessibility of its score and the lightness, humor and beauty of its script from the moment she read it.

“I’m obsessed by pop music and knew that I wanted to be a part of ‘SIX’ the moment that I first heard it,” said Perez.

“Making ‘SIX’ our own, and giving it our own flavor was a joy,” added Parra. “Getting to play with the script in a safe space, throwing it around and against the wall to see what stuck – this cast is so great that you could play around, experiment, even fail in front of them and make jokes.”

Gerianne Pérez as Catherine of Aragon (center) in ‘SIX’.Joan Marcus

How Parra and Perez play off of each other warmly and humorously proves how the sisterhood of SIX’s dead wives works in unison. Both actors, vocalists and dancers have come up within modern musical theater as opposed to the traditions of Broadway’s beloved schmaltz.

“Sydney is my dressing roommate, we’re the bookends of ‘SIX’ as the two Catherines, and one of the things we talk about is how we were in shows with fantastic pop shows with naturalistic acting styles,” says Perez. “Our resumes are not filled with ’42nd Street’ and ‘Guys & Dolls’. We’re doing pop-rock material – and ‘SIX’ is a different beast from that. It’s like being in an arena concert with comedy thrown in.”

Parra agrees, and states how the traditional musical theater industry doesn’t always suit actors who aren’t doing vintage showtune dance moves with shuffle ball steps.

“Pop production such as ‘SIX’ fits us,” Parra says.

“They wanted to use each of those pop stars signatures so to form the structure of how each of Henry VIII’s wives told their story,” added Perez. “But, onto the likes of Beyonce and Alicia Keys, we were told to choose, or find, our own “Queen-spirations,” as to how we viewed our character and wanted her to sound.”

Parra adds that infusing each of the actors own “Queen-spirations” onto ‘SIX’, “gives every show and every night its own flavor.”

‘SIX’ will be on stage at the Academy of Music on the Kimmel Cultural Campus from March 21 to April 9. For information and tickets, visit kimmelculturalcampus.org