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‘Six’ is the pulse-quickening pleasure trove that Broadway has been waiting for

From left: Abby Mueller (Jane Seymour), Samantha Pauly (Katherine Howard), Adrianna Hicks (Catherine of Aragon), Andrea Macasaet (Anne Boleyn), Brittney Mack (Anna of Cleves) and Anna Uzele (Catherine Parr) in “Six.” (Joan Marcus)
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NEW YORK — With the curtain finally rising on the opening night of "Six," the Broadway season not only got a charge — it got supercharged.

And what an exhilarating jolt of musical-theater wit and joyful affirmation “Six” supplies. If you’re looking for a sleek, swift and superbly sung evening to take you out of yourself, the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, where the musical marked its official opening Sunday, fits ideally in your itinerary. At times, the vibe becomes so contagious that it may float you out of your very seat.

We’ve all had our fill of contagion of a more sinister sort, for sure, and the theater, like so many other pastimes and callings, has suffered and had to adjust. We show our vaccination cards and strap on our masks, and sometimes even that isn’t enough: The family musical “Aladdin” relaunched Tuesday, and by Friday, it was forced to go dark again through Oct. 10 after positive coronavirus test results came back for production members.

Thankfully, no such development has hindered “Six,” which was supposed to celebrate an opening night on March 12, 2020 — the day that Broadway shut down for what turned out to be a devastating 15 months. It was Bruce Springsteen who serenaded us back into a Broadway house in late June — a brief moment, believe it or not, when masks indoors were not required in New York. Four months later, protective gear is mandated and marquees are lighting again across Times Square. “Six,” the first new musical of the 2021-2022 season, spreads exactly the kind of energizing, inspirational illumination this town aches for.

‘Six’s’ creative team at long last gets its opening night

The brainchild of Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss — friends who met at Cambridge not so long ago — the British-born “Six” is a delightful English-history remix that could even charm the dons who teach it. The six wives of that serial philanderer and occasional collector of heads, King Henry VIII, have gathered (in stunning, tricked-out get-ups by Gabriella Slade) for what you might call a girl-band pity party: Whoever can demonstrate by song that she was the most aggrieved of the wives will be crowned lead singer of their pop sextet.

“Divorced, beheaded, died! Divorced, beheaded, survived!” the six actresses cry at the top of the show, a handy shorthand of the fates (in chronological order) of Henry’s wives. Moss and Marlow dole out a pop anthem or power ballad to each of the women — the show runs only 80 minutes — that ingeniously mines bits of their actual biographies. The songwriters manage to imbue each queen with a charismatic, modern musical personality while reasserting an age-old truth, about how women for centuries have struggled for identity under the yoke of male vanity and an arrogant (and sometimes murderous) need for control.

Think of a Spice Girls version of “The First Wives Club,” in which everyone was married to the same guy — in this case, their ex being a monster who took the idea of a separation agreement too literally. Under the supremely polished direction of Jamie Armitage and Moss, the actresses step into Tim Deiling’s Grammy Awards-style lighting for their melodic testimonies. Adrianna Hicks leads off as Catherine of Aragon, and then, by turns cheeky, ribald, sardonic and hilarious, follow the others: Andrea Macasaet as Anne Boleyn; Abby Mueller as Jane Seymour; Brittney Mack as Anna of Cleves; Samantha Pauly as Katherine Howard; and Anna Uzele as Catherine Parr.

Singling any one out at the expense of the others is a futile and possibly undermining act. Moss, Marlow and Armitage have made this evening about privileged women-on-the-verge giddily egalitarian. After Hicks’s explosive “No Way,” Macasaet sings the hip-hop comedy number “Don’t Lose Ur Head,” then Mueller steps up with a plaintive ballad worthy of Whitney Houston, “Heart of Stone.” The powerhouse rollout is sustained by Mack, via the buoyant “Get Down”; by Pauly, in the account of a child and woman cruelly used, in “All You Wanna Do”; and, at last, by Uzele, playing the wife who survived, in “I Don’t Need Your Love,” a song that defines the women’s movement, Tudor style.

How ‘Six’ faced heartbreak on the March 12, 2020, opening night that never was

“Six” is most surely a team sport, and choreographer Carrie-Anne Ingrouille marshals the talents of this royal team, on set designer Emma Bailey’s mock concert stage, with a contemporary panache. The four-member onstage band, conducted by Julia Schade and christened here the “Ladies in Waiting,” is given its own rock-out moments, lending yet another dimension to the evening’s shot-out-of-a-cannon excitement.

The musical completed a pandemic circle for me. It was the last Broadway show I saw before everything ground to a halt. My original review sat unpublished in the computer for so long that the system deleted it.

I wondered at the time whether I’d ever get to see “Six” again, and then, when its rebirth was announced, whether I’d like it as much. In point of fact, I communed with it even more meaningfully this time, and not merely because of the stagecraft or the sentimental pull of a theater world striving to be whole again. This time, what got me was an embrace of the idea that Henry did not get the last word. Moss and Marlow write the thrilling songs that make the whole world of these fascinating women sing — for them, and for us.

Six, by Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow. Directed by Jamie Armitage and Moss. Choreography, Carrie-Anne Ingrouille; set, Emma Bailey; costumes, Gabriella Slade; lighting, Tim Deiling; sound, Paul Gatehouse. About 80 minutes. $69-$179 (and on some nights, a lot more). Brooks Atkinson Theatre, 256 W. 47th St., New York.

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