Updated: Jul 15, 2022
A rather odd show, in Theatre Bee’s humble opinion.
The costumes are garish, outlandish, over the top, even comical, not to mention completely unrepresentative of the Tudor era depicted in the musical. The show isn’t even a musical in the conventional sense, it is a concert. The six performers perform one by one, each supposed to be one of the six wives of Henry VIII, and their singing is supported by instrumental music from the band behind them.
Granted, the singing is outstanding. But the stories told are not. They lack detail, substance and novelty. No serious attempt is made to explore the lives of any of the wives. Instead, the songs focus on the frivolous and facetious.
(spoiler) Wife #2, Anne Bolyn, who became an obsession of the King when he was still married to his first wife, sits around taking selfies on her smartphone (yes) and goes, much like a 14-year old American teenage girl, “He [Henry VIII] wanted me, huh, obviously, messaging me like every day”, which eventually culminates in a chorus of “Sorry, not sorry about what I said, I‘m just trying to have some fun”.
The Bee was dumbfounded. Granted, the Bee expected the wives to be dignified, sophisticated women, and maybe there was a bit of an unwarranted stereotype there. But, like, seriously, could you text a little less and tell me something deeper about your life, the circumstances of your marriage, your beheading maybe?
Why this show is an international sensation in both Broadway and the West End, (and the rest of the world it seems), the bee will never understand.
(more spoilers) And then comes the point where the wives bicker with one another about who suffered the worst fate at the hands of the King. Until one or them, rather predictably, said they shouldn’t compete as they’re all unique and special in their own way (or something to that effect, the Bee forgets). Except that the show so far failed to provide any persuasive details whatsoever of these women’s lives having any substance at all. The audience hadn't had the chance to consume anything more than the facetious, inane aspects of their lives. Maybe there isn't a great deal of historical knowledge to convey in the first place? The Bee understands that, but would have appreciated a bit of historical fiction with depth more than the silliness.
Perhaps the Bee went in with the wrong frame of mind. Maybe the Bee expected too much substance and depth whereas the show was really just about enjoying some good music and humour. And costumes. *Shrugs*
Still, the Bee can’t deny that the music was catchy, and the Bee did laugh at all the jokes. It was an entertaining, but not moving, evening.
Watched 5 May 2022 at the Vaudeville Theatre, London