Splinters Theatre Group’s Six: Teen Edition – 7 February 2024, Sheffield University Drama Studio

Review by Claire Taranaski.

It’s very rare that a musical completely blows me a way (the last time being the American Idiot musical last summer) but after seeing cast two (two casts are taking it in turns) perform Six: Teen Edition last night this musical, telling the stories of Henry VIII sixth wives through a modern day singing contest, is firmly added to the blown away list.

For those of you who love “Chicago” think of Six as an extended version of “Cell Block Tango” for the 2020s that deserves to be celebrated song by song (not something I usually do with a review).

I also don’t normally start by celebrating the lighting design, but thanks to TDX Lighting the drama studio was transformed into a high class music venue looking as good as any music tour set design.

The opening number “Ex Wives” performed by all six cast members may have teased us at its start with the traditional opening bars of “Green Sleeves” but soon became apparent that this was going to be a performance the likes of Little Mix would be proud of, setting the tone for the whole show filled with energy, attitude, powerful singing voices and crisp choreography and ending with the closing bars of a re-mixed contemporary “Green Sleeves” for a new generation, before immediately throwing in the tensions of a television talent show, including the emotional back stories, and confirming in minutes that this is not only a most see for fans of musicals but also those who don’t think they are fans of musicals but love to see their favourite female singers perform live.

As each queen competes to be lead singer in the girl group they take it in turns in martial order to showcase their own talents and own styles in their own songs, with the other queens acting as backing singers dancers. For cast two this meant Jessica Smith was up first as Catherine of Aragon with the number “No Way”, superbly showcasing the musical style of the likes of Beyonce and Shakira and with Jessica’s voice getting stronger and stronger as the song went on, supported by choreography reminiscent of “Put A Ring On It”.

Ruby Chu as Anne Boleyn was next up with “Don’t Lose Your Head”, which made me hope I never have to face her in a love battle in a number with the vocals, lyrics and attitudes of the fun and fearless females dominating the UK music scene in the early 2000s’ including the likes o Lily Allen and Kate Nash.

As Jane Seymour, Faith Birnie more than delivered on the innocent yet powerful vocals of “Heart of Stone”, a song that felt relevant to anyone who has ever been in love and would not be out of place in the charts or on Adele’s next album.

Providing a brief interlude before Kassia Hibbert as German queen Anne of Cleves told her story, the Daft Punk europop inspired “Haus of Holbein” performed by the six queens’ should rightly be Germany’s entry in this years’ Eurovision or proves the Queens’ should just present the whole, florescent glasses wearing, occasion, whilst providing Weird Al with inspiration for his next polka.

When Kassia did then get her moment in the spotlight, “Get Down” proved that she could easily take over from Latto and Christina Aguilera in the current Just Eat adverts, maybe not getting the audiences sympathies for her queen but with that attitude and stage presence more than proving she does not need to.

Olivia Burgon as penultimate queen Kathryn Howard possessed in her number “All You Wanna Do” the voice, attitude and slickness to put her in the running as Ariana Grande’s protégée.

Last but not least and the only queen, if you know the rhyme and your history, to survive, Lauren Turner as Catherine Parr shone with a voice I was not expecting in her number “I Don’t Need Your Love”, a beautiful soulful performance full of pure passion and I could easily imagine her sitting at a piano singing a stunning duet of this number with Alicia Keys.

Like any great gig encore, the show ended with a rousing and uplifting finale showcasing the best of all the queen’s abilities both individually and as a group with the energy of them and the audience bouncing off each other to produce an incredible atmospheric end to the one hour 15 minute show, reminding us all that in the words of Catherine Parr all we need is “Six”.

On a night that the Mobo Awards 2024 were also taking place in Sheffield, none of the performances in this production would have been out of place on that award stage and none of the six queens in cast two, many of whom are new to Splinters (we look forward to seeing what you all do next) would be out of place in the next girl band to make it big or a professional tour of the musical.

Accompanied by musical director Jane Ledwood and her talented band, in this production brilliantly directed by director Kate Parkin and assistant director Leah Rhodes-Birch and with choreography from Aggie Grysell that any international musical star would be proud of, this musical is a show not to be missed and confirms why tickets are rightfully selling fast.

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