Six Wives

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By June Lemen

“Divorced, beheaded, died
Divorced, beheaded, survived”

I have always been fascinated by Henry VIII and his six wives.  Well, not always – the fascination began after I watched the Masterpiece Theatre production of “The Six Wives of Henry VIII” on Channel 2 in 1971.  I was totally immersed in that series. I thought Keith Mitchell (who played Henry VIII) was the handsomest man I had ever seen, and I was entirely sympathetic to his point of view.  I knew very little English history (I was 13 at the time), so I was quite shocked by some of things that Henry did to his wives.  I was also greatly surprised to discover that the Church of England was established because of Henry’s desire for a  divorce, especially because my family attended the Episcopal church, the American branch of the Church of England. They did not mention this in confirmation class.

So I became quietly obsessed with Henry VIII and his six wives and read some history (both in the form of novels and articles from the encyclopedia) and I watched every movie I could find on the subject – my favorites being “A Man for All Seasons” and “Anne of the Thousand Days.” 

Being fascinated by the story, and hanging out with my friend Dick, who was into opera, we decided we would write an opera together about the six wives.  I wrote the book (the technical term for the story of a musical) and Dick was going to write the music. I’m not sure how good it was – I remember a big dramatic scene where Jane Seymour has a vision of a blue cross on the moon, but that’s all I remember, and I may have stolen that from Masterpiece Theatre.  Dick went off to college, and I am sure that somewhere in my files is a copy of that play. But all of this led to a life-long fascination with the wives.

One day, after work, Lucy said to me, “Mom, I want to show you something on YouTube. Close your eyes and listen to this music.” 

“Divorced, beheaded, died
Divorced, beheaded, survived”

…and the opening number of “SIX” began.

I immediately knew what it was about (that rhyme owns a permanent spot in my brain) – and I was completely thrilled. Not only was the music and staging wonderful, I loved the whole concept. Watching the ex-wives of Henry VIII have a contest to decide who got the worst deal in the marriage, singing their stories while wearing in-your-face power costumes? Genius.

I have never seen “SIX” live – I could not get tickets when it was in Boston – so  I was delighted to discover that Peacock Players was going to be doing SIX: Teen Edition.  I was a little nervous, too, because the songs are big and require both singing chops and a big presence.

I should not have worried.

Image from tech rehearsal/Peacock Players

It was phenomenal, from the moment Catharine of Aragon belted out “Let me tell you a story…”

I loved the costumes; I loved the music; I loved the performers.  Their energy was absolutely inspiring.  I loved seeing them perform this show with incredible joie de vivre.

And they were good.  I’ve seen Cici Magdalena, Julia Pesina, and Gabby Wallace perform in other Peacock Players productions, but they were absolutely terrific as Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Parr.  The other three queens – Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, and Katharine Howard, played by Lisa Hood, Autum Hughes, and Lisette Beauchemin, made their Peacock Players debut in “SIX.” Great debut, ladies.

These six had the crowd at the Streeter Theatre on their feet, clapping to the last song, cheering.

SIX is essentially a story of women reclaiming their narratives.  I was overjoyed to see it done so well. You will be, too.  Buy a ticket. Support local theatre.  You will be so happy you did.

Ticket link.

Remaining performances:

Saturday, June 22 | 3 & 8 p.m.
Sunday, June 23    | 3 p.m.

You can reach June Lemen at