How Six The Musical Came to Be a London Smash

Seth Rudetsky   How Six The Musical Came to Be a London Smash
 
This week in the life of Seth Rudetsky, Seth shares the origin story of the sassafrass pop musical about Henry VIII from the perspective of his six wives—plus a listen to the opening number.
Cast
Cast Idil Sukan

Let’s go across the pond! Right before I left for London to do my Ramin Karimloo shows a few weeks ago, I randomly came across the opening number from a musical called Six. I became obsessed! I love it all; the Cell Block Tango-like beginning, the crazy belting,, and specifically, the riff from Renee Lamb at 3:10. Listen!


So, when I was in London, it turned out that Kevin Wilson, who was the publicist for me and Ramin, was also the publicist for Six! He was able to get me an interview with Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, who wrote the show, for my SiriusXM radio show. They met in my hotel room (our favorite: the Radisson Blu on Mercer Street in Seven Dials) and, not surprisingly if you’ve heard the hipness of the score, they’re in their mid-20s. They told me that they met at Cambridge “Uni” where he was studying English and she history. The school had always taken a musical to the Edinburgh Festival, but it was usually a classic show that cost a lot in terms of rights and wasn’t necessarily well-attended. The school therefore decided to bring an original show. Toby and Lucy wanted to write it together and looked for a subject/story that was in the public domain. First,they thought of something like The Real Housewives of Shakespeare, but then decided to focus on Henry VIII’s six wives.

Seth 11.12.18

While Toby was in a poetry class about Wordsworth, he came up with the concept that it should be a concert of the ex-wives who’ve formed a band called “Six.” So, the audience is there watching a pop concert where each wife tells her story. He and Lucy wrote it together, found a cast from students at the school and went to Edinburgh for a month (more than 20 performances). Lucy said at one point they said to each other “Wouldn’t it amazing if some producer from the London Fringe let us put it on for one night…?” but then decided, British style, it was asking for way too much.

Well, lots of producer-types came to see the run of the show, but nothing came of it. Then, they did a run of Six at their “Uni” and a producer who saw it at Edinburgh came to see it again (Andy Barnes). Plus, Toby knew George Stiles, who wrote Honk! and the additional music for Mary Poppins, because he had been in a band with his father back in the day. Well, George came to see it to support Toby, loved it, and invited a producer to the next performance. That producer was Kenny Wax, who produced The Play That Goes Wrong. He met with Lucy and Toby in his office and Toby said, in reverential terms, that the office was “on Shaftesbury Avenue across from Les Miz.” That was enough to put them in a tizzy.

Then, Kenny told them that he was doing a show at the Arts Theatre in London and asked if they like to do some showcases of Six on Mondays—when the show was dark. Mind you, they never thought anything like this could happen. Remember, they thought dreaming of one performance in a fringe theatre was way too much! Toby told me when they wrote it that he thought these songs would be something they could have in their repertoire if they ever wanted permission to possibly sit in on a rehearsal for a new show and needed to prove that they had written something. And Lucy said that, while Toby had written for himself before, she had never written anything so she had zero expectations. Of course, now Lucy realizes that they wrote something commercially viable because they were trying to appeal to the Edinburgh audiences. These audiences have a lot to choose from so they had to write something that stood out…and was, therefore, commercially viable. She also said Edinburgh was a “microcosm” of the world, and I glared because I felt her word choice was a stark reminder that she went to Cambridge and I have a degree in piano performance.

Cast
Cast Idil Sukan

Anyhoo, the showcases in London went well and the producers decided there should be a tour as well as an album to promote the show and then a short run in London. The show just did a run at the Arts Theatre in London, which only does limited runs, but the theatre is now making an exception and bringing it back for an open-ended run! Toby and Lucy are still so in awe of what’s happening that when I mentioned I had heard the song on Spotify, they asked me to clarify if I heard it randomly or if someone suggested it. I told them I heard it randomly and they SCREAMED! I guess they can’t believe it’s streaming around the world. They only started writing it in January of 2017! I ended by saying they need to do at least one performance where all the wives are played by men in drag and they agreed but didn’t offer the invitation I was waiting for. Rude.

Speaking of drag, I used to always haul out my Fran Weissler impersonation for Broadway Cares benefits when I was doing Grease on Broadway. Here’s one of my appearances featuring some amazing performers, like Felicia Finley, who was starring in Aida at the time, and Donna McKechnie doing ye olde Cassie dance.

That clip was from an old Gypsy of the Year which is now re-titled The Red Bucket Follies and I’ll be hosting it again this year! It’s Monday/Tuesday December 3 and 4! Get tickets at BroadwayCares.org.

Speaking of tickets, James and I got tickets for Head Over Heels again! We love it so much! So joyous and such an amazing cast. Holy cow, the singing! Listen to the brilliant Bonnie Milligan, who plays Princess Pamela. I first became obsessed with her when she did the crazy riff during the modulation at around 2:45!

After the show, I hung out with my former Disaster! co-star Rachel York, who is stunning/hilarious in the show (as usual), and we ran into Kathryn Gallagher, Peter Gallagher’s daughter, who just starred in Jagged Little Pill.

Seth 11.12.18

Years ago, Peter asked me to do a benefit for a local theatre company and I stayed at his beautiful country house and met his lovely kids. Well, I just watched Kathryn’s amazing music video and was like, ‘That is a lighter and a beer! I’m calling Peter!” Then I remembered I met her 15 years ago she’s no longer ten. (P.S. I’m still calling Peter. I don’t approve of smoking or drinking.) Regardless, she’s great!

OK, I’m off to Town Hall to do my show with Audra McDonald! Come see us tonight if you’re in NYC! Get tickets here.

Here’s my article where I give the backstory on some of her biggest hits. Read it!

This Saturday I’ll be at the Scottsdale Performing Arts Center with Tony Award winner Jessie Mueller. Come see us (buy tickets here) and if you don’t know how amazing she is, watch this!

PEACE OUT!

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