A Broadway musical based on real historical figures with a diverse cast and distinctly modern ideas and songs. Now why does that sound familiar?
If you dug how “Hamilton” presented Alexander Hamilton’s story, you’ll probably also want to check out “SIX The Musical,” which features the six wives of King Henry VIII relaying their experiences as the 16th-century British monarch’s paramours in the style of a 21st-century pop concert.
“SIX” made its Broadway debut in 2021, and its nationally touring production will be stopping by Downtown’s Benedum Center from March 14-19. A very limited number of tickets are still available via trustarts.org. The Union Progress recently caught up with 2020 Penn State University graduate Amina Faye about her role as Jane Seymour and what audiences can expect during a night out to see “SIX.”
“This is a concert,” Faye said. “Make noise. If something is moving you, get up. … We’re giving people permission to have that experience.”
It has been less than three years since Faye graduated from Penn State with a bachelor’s degree in musical theater. Her college experience was a bit unorthodox given that she finished her senior year from her parents’ house in North Carolina due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Still, she valued her time in State College while receiving a “conservatory-style education but on a huge football campus.”
“I think that my time at Penn State really taught me what it’s like to be immersed in the arts but also have my eye on other things,” she said. “I wasn’t just singing and dancing all day. I was a human being first.”
During her college days, Faye would often head west to Pittsburgh so she could check out shows starring her friends at Carnegie Mellon University. For her, Pittsburgh is “a really cute city” with great food, and she’s excited to finally have an opportunity to perform for yinzers in “SIX.”
Faye wouldn’t have described herself as a British history buff prior to joining the cast of “SIX.” Getting to research Henry VIII and his six wives was an “exciting component of this job,” she said, mostly because it gave her an excuse to binge the late-aughts Showtime drama “The Tudors.” She knows it might not be the most accurate representation of Henry VIII’s reign, but it still helped inform her performance.
“Eighty percent of it was fictional, but I held onto the 20% that wasn’t,” Faye explained.
For those who need a refresher, Henry VIII was originally married to Catherine of Aragon (Gerianne Pérez) before going on to also wed Anne Boleyn (Zan Berube), Jane Seymour (Faye), Anna of Cleves (Terica Marie), Katherine Howard (Aline Mayagoitia) and Catherine Parr (Sydney Parra). They’re the only principal actors in the show, though they often interact with the audience and an onstage band dubbed The Ladies in Waiting.
Seymour was Henry VIII’s third wife who, as Faye put it, was “a bit submissive” so as not to end up beheaded like his previous wife, Anne Boleyn. She ended up mothering the future King Edward VI before dying shortly after of complications stemming from childbirth. Faye’s version of Seymour wants “to reconnect the family” in terms of keeping all the wives from going off the rails.
“That makes her really maternal and the glue in the sense to this group, in a weird way,” Faye said. “Even when we get a little rowdy, she’s the one who’s like, let’s pull it back in together.”
None of the “SIX” cast members will be mad if Benedum patrons show off their raucous sides. Faye said she and her co-stars wanted their shows to feel like an authentic pop concert so much that at at one point during the rehearsal process they gathered together to watch Beyoncé’s legendary 2018 Coachella performance. Watching Queen Bey go to work taught Faye “how to hold yourself up” and “demand people’s attention” on stage.
Though all the women on stage are technically the show’s leads, Faye sees “SIX” as an “ensemble-first” musical. She of course takes Seymour’s solo “Heart of Stone” as seriously as any performer would, but mostly, she sees “SIX” as a “relay race” between the wives where they start out together, periodically pass the baton and end in unison as well.
“There’s nothing traditional about this style of theater we’re doing,” Faye said.
At this point in her journey with “SIX The Musical,” Faye has seen and done everything from “strutting down the stage” at a 4,500-seat theater in St. Louis to watching a woman who appeared to be in her 70s get up and start “busting it” during the part of the show when Anna of Cleves finds a new “best friend” in the audience and demands they start dancing.
She would love to make similarly unforgettable memories at the Benedum next week.
“If you like supporting women, if you like having fun, if you like feeling liberated,” Faye said, “then you should come and see ‘SIX The Musical.’ ”