A few weeks ago, I logged onto Twitter to find UK theatre twitter upset at Kat Steele, a popular American theatre youtuber, about a couple of videos she had made about the West End musical Six. Although I was annoyed at some of the comments she had made, I wanted to wait until I had actually seen the show to respond.
Her comments were a little bit annoying to me and honestly, I’m surprised she made the initial video that she did. She had done little to no research on a musical that she had not had the opportunity to see which seemed really unprofessional of her. She then criticised it for copying musical styles, however it is clearly set out in the program and many interviews that the Queens’s different songs are inspired by different artists.
However, the criticism that most shocked me about her video was that Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss copied Lin-Manuel Miranda in making Six a contemporary musical about a historical topic. While Hamilton is a fantastic musical, it was nowhere near the first to approach history in this way, for example, Evita, Bonnie and Clyde and Les Miserables are all based on historical topics.
To be completely honest, Six and Hamilton are not similar at all in my opinion. Hamilton is a very serious musical with moments of comedy and levity, whereas Six is more of a playful musical with moments of seriousness. Hamilton tries to be as historically accurate as possible, whereas Six plays around with it-I mean, it’s based on the six wives of Henry VIII forming a pop girl group! Hamilton aims to tell the story of Hamilton and make him into a more well known historical figure, while Six is about celebrating femininity and sisterhood and each other.
To me, if there is a play that is more similar to each of them, it would be Emilia. Emilia is a contemporary play about Emilia Bassano, the alleged ‘Dark Lady’ of Shakespeare’s sonnets. Emilia is serious and comedic at the same time; it celebrates female characters and creatives while lamenting the current state of the world and it is so so powerful. And while I can see more elements of Six and Hamilton in Emilia than I see in either of the other musicals, it’s still an amazingly strong play and it’s own separate entity.
Personally, I love contemporary historical musicals. I think they’re a great way to learn about something new and to get people into history and to see musicals like Six doing so well makes me really happy.
If you liked this, you might like:
- Review: Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre, London
- Review: Emilia at the Vaudeville Theatre, London