Interview: Meet the Ladies in Waiting, Six's Onstage Band
The four musicians tell us about their experiences playing the new musical.
The musical Six makes the audience feel like they are at a concert given by Henry VIII's six wives. And what's a concert without a killer backing band? The band, called the Ladies in Waiting, is onstage for the duration of the show, wearing tight, studded costumes that complement the looks of the actors, and comprises four women: Julia Schade, Kimi Hayes, Michelle Osbourne, and Elena Bonomo. Each has a stage name that corresponds to a real historical lady in waiting to one or more of the six queens. There is also an additional musician, Mariana Ramirez (percussion), who plays offstage.
It's rare for a Broadway show to have an all-female band (besides Head Over Heels in 2018, we're hard-pressed to think of another). "It's a unique experience, but it shouldn't be unique," says Schade. "Because people would think nothing about it or ever ask a question about an all-male band in a show."
At the same time, Bonomo notes that the industry is getting better in this regard, and that she's gotten hired for many all-female gigs in recent years. "Growing up or even in college, I was usually the only female in the band, especially being on drums. Now I don't even think about it. It just feels so normal," she says.
Prior to Broadway, Six toured North America, and the members of the band joined at different stages of the tour. By the last stop, St. Paul, the band was in its current iteration, and they bonded by going out to eat and cooking for each other. Now that the show is officially open after the shutdown, things are a little different due to COVID safety measures. Everybody is masked backstage and gets tested three times a week, but they still try to do things as a group, such as see shows on their off nights. They also meet 15 minutes before every show to go over any notes, hype each other up, and play impromptu jam sessions. They play so well together that they fantasize about playing live gigs elsewhere and try different types of music. But for now, you can see them at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Meet the Ladies in Waiting.
Instrument: Conductor/Keyboard/Music Director
Lady in Waiting: Joan
On her onstage persona: "I think she's the band leader because she was in court through all six queens. And Catherine Parr and her were best friends, so that's why in the show, Catherine Parr is one of the few queens that addresses me."
How she got involved: Schade got a call from a number she didn't recognize at 10pm one night from the casting director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater in a panic trying to find a pianist for Six callbacks. Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, the writers, liked her so much that they asked her return to auditions the next day, and then to join the show in Chicago.
Favorite song to perform in the show: " 'No Way' because I get to play the most fun Latin rhythms in that. It's just a blast. Plus, I think it's partially where it's placed in the show, the show is really moving once we get to 'No Way.' It's such a satisfying groove."
On her costume: It means a lot to Schade as a plus-sized woman that other women can see themselves represented when she is onstage. The costume designer, Gabriella Slade, told Schade that they wouldn't let her go out there not feeling good about herself. "I wanted to wear the cool laced-up front pants, but I wanted a skirt over it. They let me find what I was comfortable with and then they decorated the shit out of it using the materials that matched the other outfits. So, I feel really good and comfortable in my costume, but I don't feel like I'm separate even though it's a different look. I feel like a boss in that costume."
Best celebrity encounter: During pre-pandemic Six previews, Schade skipped the autograph line one night, but a tall, Scottish man saw her leaving and started excitedly jumping around. It wasn't until somebody asked him for a photo that she realized it was actor Gerard Butler. He took pictures with her and asked for her email address to send them to her. She didn't expect to hear from him, but at midnight that night she received the photos.
Lady in Waiting: Maggie
On her onstage persona: "I'm mostly really present and interactive with the queens without being obnoxious. Sometimes it's just a matter of a smile. I think my vibe and feeling throughout the show is like I would be in real life if I was working with a great singer."
Favorite song to perform in the show: " 'No Way.' We get to 'No Way' and I'm grinning ear to ear. It's just got the best groove. I have all favorites for different reasons, but 'No Way' hands down is uplifting."
Favorite music to listen to outside the show: "It changes. I go through different phases. If I'm just chilling, I'll listen to singer songwriters, Brandi Carlile or Sara Bareilles or something like that. But I like all the genres. I don't like rap and I don't like metal. It's easier to narrow down what I don't listen to."
On returning to live shows: "The audiences have been incredible. It's surreal. I feel like there's a deeper appreciation now for everything. That audience every night, it's like the new year's eve ball drop. It fills my whole soul. "
Lady in Waiting: Bessie
Favorite song to perform in the show: "It always changes. At the moment, I'm really enjoying the performance that Anne Boleyn does, 'Don't Lose Ur Head.' It's very cheeky. It's very funky but then punchy at the same time. And then towards the end, we have the outro part where we rock out and so we play full on and dancing in our spot and it's very energetic. And also, I really enjoy playing 'Six' because it's such a celebration. It's a coming together of the show, but it also represents the coming together of all six queens, and it's something that we can take on outside of the theater."
On her costume: "I absolutely love the costumes. I like the fact that the band is coordinated and we also wear a headband, a ruff, and a belt. And everything is studded and I really like that look because it kind of mixes rock pop vibes with that time in history. And even down to our in our monitoring, they've studded that as well."
What she did during the shutdown: Taught online, played for virtual church services, and wrote a tutorial book for beginner bass guitarists
What she does when not performing: Osbourne has a clothing line called Players HQ Clothing that sells hoodies and shirts with the slogan "less hate more music." The company also champions independent artists and encourages people to buy direct from artists.
Lady in Waiting: Maria
On performing onstage: Bonomo was in the off-Broadway musical The Hello Girls, and the tour of Waitress, which both feature musicians onstage. "I guess it's just a coincidence that the shows that I've done recently have all been ones where the band is featured onstage, but honestly, I prefer that. I think it's so much fun. I really like being onstage and I like being able to see the rest of the band and the cast and interact with people and I love being able to see the audience too because when you're in a pit, you just have no idea what's going on."
Favorite song to perform in the show: "I really like playing 'I Don't Need your Love.' It's one of the last things in the show. That's super fun because our bass player Michelle has a really cool bass line in that song and I really like playing that groove and it's a really fun moment in the show too because it's when everyone's just like looking at each other and rocking out and celebrating."
Worst costume mishap: The pants have laces that go up the leg and during one of the first few shows, her drumstick got caught in the laces, but she got used to them and adapted quickly.
Queen she identifies with the most: Catherine Parr. "Mostly because we have a similar hairstyle. And she's the only queen that wears pants. I feel like we have a similar style and personality. She's very grounded. I relate to her and I like her song."