This punchy revue-like musical about the six wives of Henry VIII originated as a Cambridge University student production, where its authors, musical director and lighting designer all met and first worked on this show together, before going to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe last summer.
It now receives a modest but professionally cast West End showcase though it still feels a little raucously and unashamedly undergraduate. That’s not meant as a criticism; it’s refreshing in its youth and vigour. There’s not (yet) quite enough variety in the writing: each of the wives strikes an attitude – petulance, defiance or outrage, as required – and then holds and repeats it, a lot.
Clearly heavily influenced by Hamilton in the way it applies contemporary musical and lyrical tropes to historical figures, there’s also a lot of Wicked-influenced belting here as well as some X-Factor uplift. Though the characters can feel generic and undifferentiated, they are bracingly delivered by a powerfully-voiced cast. Each of them gets their moment in the spotlight, but they also function as each other’s back-up singers and chorus.
Lotte Wakeham’s production feels very much like a concert rather than a full staging; it showcases the songs well enough but doesn’t really provide narrative drive.
There’s undoubtedly raw talent on display in the writing, and really accomplished vocal performances – but it currently feels undernourished and, even though it runs to just 70 minutes, overlong for what it is.