A modern twist on the lives of the six wives of Henry VIII, the show takes the form of a pop concert in which the queens, in turn, sing their stories. The band’s lead singer will be determined by the one who suffered the most as Henry’s wife. Each queen in the musical is based on influences from actual pop stars.
While Slade went to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and Hampton Court Palace for period research, she also turned to the Met Gala, including the designs of Alexander McQueen and others, and music references.
In the case of Catherine of Aragon, played by Adrianna Hicks with nods to Beyoncé, Jennifer Hudson and Jennifer Lopez, “there are a lot of Spanish influences in her dress too,” say Slade. “If you look at the aesthetic of Beyoncé, you’ll see there are a lot of black and gold fashion pieces.”
Slade noted that Catherine of Aragon was a more traditional queen, so when it came to her silhouette, she gave her a classic Tudor cut with a bodice and square neckline befitting the era. Katherine Howard (Samantha Pauly) had a pink and purple palette based on the look of pop singer Ariana Grande. Pink skirts and a high ponytail were a throwback to the singer’s “No Tears Left to Cry” 2018 look. Her shape was a marriage of the signature Grande short skirt and a Renaissance-influenced neckline.
With references to Alicia Keys, Catherine Parr (Anna Uzele) was considered “very mature, so she was a bit more covered,” Slade says. “She had leggings, but we also gave her big shoulders which, for me, made it a powerful silhouette for her,” and a contrast to the softer look seen on Howard.
When the show opened on the West End stage in London in 2019, Slade picked shoes from local stores, but for Broadway, she had an opportunity to have each pair custom-made for every character. “It felt right to include Swarovski crystals into the design of the boot,” she says.
A tiny detail, adds Slade, is that in addition to the crystals, each boot is embellished with stones and studs. “You have a pattern on each that links into the costume design, and it’s a nice statement and finish to the shoe.”