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Empowering Message of SIX Brings Mothers and Daughters Together

SIX has an empowering feminist message about the wives of Henry VIII, and mothers and daughters around the world have been embracing the show's story together.

The Chicago Shakespeare cast of the Broadway-bound musical SIX.
(© Liz Lauren)

When Alisa Hurwitz saw SIX for the first time at American Repertory Theater, her first thought was, I have to bring my daughters back to see this show. The New Hampshire-based mother of two girls knew that the musical's message of sisterhood and its important historical lessons (not to mention catchy score) would thrill her kids.

"The music is fantastic — all of us enjoy listening to it together," she said. "But what really made me want to take them was the fact that it is a digestible piece of history, and it's about taking back the narrative. For my daughters to see a show that is about women telling the narrative of history — that felt really empowering."

The musical, by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, positions Henry VIII's six wives as a girl group, reclaiming their place in history — a "histo-remix" as the show dubs it. That story has been inspiring audiences around the world, from its premiere at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2017, to an Olivier-nominated West End run and multiple UK tours, to a North American tour, with stops in Chicago, Boston, St. Paul, and Edmonton, Alberta, ahead of Broadway performances starting on February 13.

When Marta Newlon got her subscription tickets to see the musical at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts in St. Paul, she initially planned to take her daughter. Little did she know, her 17-year-old granddaughter, Sydney, had already heard the album on YouTube, where she dove into the proliferation of animated music videos created by fans. As soon as Sydney heard her mother and grandmother would be going to see the show, she had to get in on the action.

"I was happy to see how they did it in the theater because I only saw it via animation on YouTube," said Sydney, who adds she hasn't stopped listening to the music since seeing the show. "I found it really fun because I knew a lot of the songs."

TheaterMania publisher and COO Rosemary Maggiore's teenage daughter, Anna, had also listened to some of the music on YouTube, and Maggiore had heard rave reviews out of the West End. So when the pair planned their London trip, she made sure to book tickets. Both were impressed by the music and the performances, but they also left the theater talking about the show's deeper themes.

"My daughter mentioned to me that she had never heard of the other women besides Anne Boleyn and I thought, me too!" said Maggiore. "And why do we know Anne Boleyn? Is it because she was beheaded? What a legacy! The theme that struck us what that these women were just lost in history and how sad that was."

TheaterMania publisher and COO with her daughter at SIX.
(photo provided by Rosemary Maggiore)

Marta, Camela, and Sydney also had important conversations after the show. Representing three generations of women, they had attended the Women's March together, and the parallels to today's world spoke to them in an eye-opening way.

"I'll often talk to Sydney and my daughter about how women were treated because I'm a child of the 60s," said Marta. "How her mother was raised and how she's being raised are two different lifestyles."

"We talked about how things really don't change that much," added Camela. "The story rings true today."

However, Maggiore said the show also illuminates how some things have changed, and the musical's humorous tone provides levity to a story that would otherwise feel heavy.

"It's important that young women understand how women were mistreated in the past and how the opportunities have changed — and to appreciate that fact," said Maggiore. "Over the centuries, women have fought hard to get on equal footing, and it's something to celebrate. This show pokes fun at how ridiculous things were in the past, which could only be funny because it's not that way now."

Hurwitz wanted to start these conversations with her daughters early, and the show sparked important discussions and questions from her kids. Most of all, she's glad her daughters had the opportunity to see women center stage in a big musical, reclaiming the narrative and their place in history.

"Just being able to usher my kids into an awareness of what it means to be female in the world in a way that they can comprehend without overwhelming them," she said. "It's a fun way to engage them in that conversation and also get them thinking about female voices and history and who writes the history. The story has been about Henry VIII. To hear some of what these six women's lives really were before him, after him, and outside of him — that feels important."

Alisa Hurwitz's daughter Maya at SIX.
(photo provided by Alisa Hurwitz)
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