×

On Sunday in New York City, “Six,” the pop-musical phenomenon about the not-so merry wives of Henry VIII, became the first new musical to open on Broadway, 17 months after the show’s original opening night was cancelled the same day Broadway shut down.

“I’m getting rowdy. I’m getting loud. I’m going to scream and yell and clap and be the loudest person in there,” Jimmy Fallon gushed to Variety on Oct. 3 outside the Brooks Atkinson Theatre, joined by guests including Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bowen Yang, Jeremy O. Harris, Ariana DeBose and Peppermint. “These talented people have been out of work for almost two years, and tonight I plan to party,” he hollered.

True, Sunday’s opening night was an effulgent day for the Broadway community — a full-circle event for a musical which closed five hours before Broadway collapsed and a celebration of theater-making that places 10 women on the stage in an effort to reclaim how history is told.

“Six,” a glittery pop-concert squeezed within a musical structure, pits the six wives of Henry VIII against each other in a song-battle over who suffered the most, an obvious and ironic exercise meant to question how histories of women are written in misogyny.

“We’re doing some reclamation,” Andrea Macasaet, who plays Anne Boleyn, told Variety at the opening night after-party, held at Chelsea Piers. “When 12-year- old girls see it — whether they come to the theater, listen to the album, or see it on TikTok — they see a Black woman playing a German queen, a Filipino woman playing Anne Boleyn, and they see instructions for how to create a better world.”

And that’s the other point: ‘Six’s’ opening isn’t just a gushy celebration for Broadway. It also represents an achievement for a musical arriving with a peculiar pedigree. First written by Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow as a college project, the musical released an album after premiering in the U.K. and embarked on several world tours, amassing a voracious global fandom on social media as the show landed in the West End. By the time it booked a Broadway theater, “Six” was already a global sensation.

“We’re a product of Instagram. We’re a product of TikTok, of Twitter hype. It’s food for thought when considering how shows—particularly ours, which breaks the mold for how musical theater can be defined— come to Broadway,” Jamie Armitage, “Six’s” co-director, told Variety on Sunday. “Young people may not be able to afford the ridiculous ticket prices, but they do make plenty of noise.”

“I think we need to think of our work, as actors and music theater people, as outreach,” added Brittney Mack, who plays Anne of Cleves. “All music theater is low-key non-profit, and if you think of it as a service to young people and you know how to make that entertaining, you do what ‘Six’ did. You go on tours. You build a global fandom. You make something successful,” she said at the after party.

On Broadway, “Six” is backed by producer Kevin McCollum, the veteran who brought “Rent,” “Avenue Q” and “In the Heights” to the stage and saw in “Six” the same capacity for evolution in the genre.

“Broadway was always a cultural art form — until television showed up. This show takes back the microphone,” he told Variety. “Formats like this, a musical masquerading as a pop concert, is a seminal moment for Broadway, because they’ve taken back storytelling as a form of popular entertainment. We’ll talk in 10 years and see if we’re right.”

Of course, there’s a particular irony to the show’s arriving thanks to the popularity of young fans, as Armitage noted: Most could never afford the ticket prices, a difficult reality as Broadway straddles calls for greater accessibility with the financial reality of rebuilding a theater economy.

“Yes, tickets are expensive, but when someone buys a premium ticket—an orchestra seat for a few hundred dollars—it subsidizes everyone else who can’t,” McCollum said at the afterparty, emphasizing the importance of “Six’s” digital lottery for young fans.

“If you can afford the orchestra seat, please come,” he finished. “You’ll usher in a new generation of people who are hungry for theater, kids who are savvy online or have the time to wait in line outside.”