Theater

Six: the Musical Kicks Off South Florida's Broadway Season This Fall

Olivia Donalson stars as Anna of Cleves in the touring production of Six: the Musical.
Olivia Donalson stars as Anna of Cleves in the touring production of Six: the Musical. Photo by Joan Marcus
Every monarch is remembered throughout history for various achievements. We'll always have Colin Firth's performance of King George VI in The King's Speech. The late Queen Elizabeth II has Netflix's The Crown to solidify her legacy.

But King Henry VIII will forever be associated with his six wives. You may have heard of them: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Catherine Howard, and Katherine Parr.

Boleyn is arguably the most famous — not because she was beheaded, but because Natalie Portman played her in The Other Boleyn Girl.

Now, audiences have the opportunity to revisit a slice of European history with the Tony Award-winning musical based on Henry VIII's many wives, aptly titled Six: the Musical. It's like Hamilton, except with a cavalcade of badass women telling the story of how they endured a whole lot of crap yet nevertheless persisted.

Although British audiences have been enjoying Six since 2017, when it debuted at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the production didn't make its Broadway until October 2021. Six months later, the musical embarked on a national U.S. tour. South Florida audiences will have the opportunity to experience the musical phenomenon during its local debut at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts (October 11-23) and the Adrienne Arsht Center of the Performing Arts (October 25-30).

New Times spoke with Olivia Donalson, who has portrayed Anne of Cleves in the touring production Six since kicking off in April.

She describes the show as a pop concert. It's a performance that will entice all audiences of "any gender, any age, any background," Donalson says. "You will have the time of your life seeing this show." Despite the musical's roots in history and historical references, prior knowledge of Henry VIII's exploits isn't required. Donalson believes it's better to show up with zero knowledge on the subject.
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The cast of the touring production of Six: the Musical
Photo by Joan Marcus
"You'll be a blank canvas ready to receive," she says. "You don't have to know anything about history [before seeing Six] because not only do our songs tell the story, but it's also about hearing it from our [female] perspective."

Much of history is told from the male perspective and often portrays women in the most unflattering light. Six has Henry VIII's wives reclaiming their narratives and telling the story from their point of view.

Donalson's Anne of Cleves is possibly the lady on stage with the luckiest outcome. Despite her divorce from the monarch, Anne of Cleves got a pretty sweet deal. In order not to ruin the political relationship between families, the king set her up with her own money and land.

"She got all the benefits of being in the royal family and was also independent, which was something that women did not have at the time," Donalson explains. "It was truly the best deal of them all, and she definitely lets you know that on stage," adds the actor with a laugh.

Part of the rehearsal process called for the main cast and their alternates to delve deep into history. They read books, watched documentaries, and even gave presentations on their queens to each other.

"We each found a fun way to tell the story of our queens," Donalson adds. "I did a rap."

The tour opened in March at the CIBC Theater in Chicago. Donalson's first performance was an invited dress rehearsal where the audience was made up mostly of local college students.

"When we're in the rehearsal process, you have the same four creative team members you're performing for, and they chuckle gently when there's something funny," Donalson says. "But sometimes I wondered if the jokes were funny."
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Six: the Musical explores the lives of the six wives of Henry VIII.
Photo by Joan Marcus
The actress found her first performance to the public to be electrifying. "The audience went absolutely wild for the show and for my speech," she adds.

Six features an all-women cast alongside an all-women band. Donalson finds the sensation of being part of such a strong female-led production amazing.

"I feel like we're all listening and supporting each other, and we understand each other. When we step out on stage, you can feel the audience react and take in the fact that it is ten fire women on stage doing what they love to do and doing it really, really well."

During the South Florida stop, Donalson will share the stage with Khaila Wilcoxon as Catherine of Aragon, Storm Lever as Anne Boleyn, Jasmine Forsberg as Jane Seymour, Didi Romero as Katherine Howard, and Gabriela Carrillo as Catherine Parr.

"Anyone who is not interested in theater or even history will still have the best time because you are going to be floored with how much energy is on that stage," Donalson says.

Six: the Musical. Tuesday, October 11 through Sunday, October 23, at Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave, Fort Lauderdale; and Tuesday, October 25, through Sunday, October 30, at Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts, 1300 Biscayne Blvd, Miami; sixsouthflorida.com. Tickets cost $35 to $140.
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Carolina del Busto is a freelance writer for Miami New Times. She nurtured her love of words at Boston College before moving back home to Miami and has been covering arts and culture in the Magic City since 2013.