How Six: The Musical Began Its Reign | Playbill

Seth Rudetsky How Six: The Musical Began Its Reign

Seth recounts a conversation with Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow on the fan-favorite musical's journey from page to worldwide stage.

Hello from beautiful L.A. 

I’m here with James who’s having fancy TV meetings while I’m taking a vacay and staying with my pal Jack Plotnick. I’m very happy to say that Jack just made a hilarious video based on a classic early scene from the The Exorcist. Please watch, but p.s. it's not safe for work!

Just a heads up that I’m a travelin’! I’m in Carmel, Indiana at Feinstein’s on June 16th and 17th. I made a video with a little soupçon of my deconstructions to show what I’ll be doing. Here is my Barbra Streisand—one of my very firsts!

And, yes I’m traveling, but I’m also still a NYC boy. I’m hosting a Tony Award watch party on the Upper West Side at the West Side Comedy Club and I just found out they are going to live stream it as well. So, show up in NYC for food, drink, inside Broadway stories and sass!

Or watch the live stream from anywhere and just provide your own food and drink!

Speaking of Tony Awards, I just found this interview I did a few years ago in London Town with the writers of SIX, Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow. They met me in my hotel room (our favorite: the Radisson Blu on Mercer Street in Seven Dials), and not surprisingly—if you’ve heard the hipness of the score—they’re in their mid-20s. They told me that they met at Cambridge, their "uni," where he was studying English and she was studying history. Their school had always taken a musical to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, but it was usually a classic show that cost a lot in terms of acquiring the rights and wasn’t necessarily well-attended. The school therefore decided to bring an original show. Now, that can often be a huge mistake— I’m still reeling from my fifth grade elementary school where the other class got to do Grease and we did an original show called How A Bill Becomes A Law. I think our audience just recently woke up.

Anyway, Toby and Lucy wanted to write it together and looked for a subject that was in the public domain. First, they thought of something like The Real Housewives of Shakespeare, but then decided to focus on Henry VIII’s six wives.

While Toby was in a poetry class about Wordsworth, he came up with the concept that it should be a concert of the ex-wives who’ve formed a band called "Six." So, the audience would be watching a pop concert where each wife tells her story. He and Lucy wrote it together, found a cast from students at the school, and went to Edinburgh for a month (more than 20 performances). Lucy said at one point they said to each other, "Wouldn’t it amazing if some producer from the London Fringe let us put it on for one night?" Despite pondering the question, they decided, British style, it was asking for way too much. Isn’t that amazing? They would have been thrilled just having it in London for one night and now it’s been playing there for years and it’s on Broadway! And, what I mean by British style is: the Brits definitely never want to appear wanting or too hopeful.

I remember talking to Haydn Gwynne who had originated the role of the dance teacher in the West End production of Billy Elliot. She heard the show was going to Broadway and wanted to go with it but, of course, she couldn’t directly ask. Well, she finally got up the courage to speak to the director about it and said something like, "When the show goes to Broadway, I don’t suppose I’d ever have a chance to do it because I probably wouldn’t be going with it or perhaps there is some likelihood but I don’t suppose?" He responded, "Yes." And she told me that she had asked in such a confusing back-peddling British way that she literally didn’t know what his answer meant!

Back to SIX. Lots of producer-types came to see the run of the show, but nothing came of it. Then, Toby and Lucy did a run of SIX at Cambridge and a producer who saw it at Edinburgh, Andy Barnes, came to see it again. Toby also invited George Stiles, who wrote Honk! and the additional music for Mary Poppins, who he knew because George had been in a band with Toby's father "back in the day." I'm guessing "back in the day" for Toby is probably the mid-90s. Well, George came to see it to support Toby and he loved it! George then invited Kenny Wax, producer of The Play That Goes Wrong, to the next performance. Kenny met with Lucy and Toby in his office and Toby said, in reverential tones, that the office was "on Shaftesbury Avenue across from Les Miz," which was enough to put them in a tizzy. They were having a meeting in an office right near a hit show!

Kenny told Toby and Lucy that he was doing a show at the Arts Theatre in London and asked if they like to do some showcases of SIX  on Mondays when his other show was dark. Mind you, Toby and Lucy never thought anything like this could happen. They thought dreaming of one performance in a fringe theatre was taking their hopes too far! Toby told me when they wrote SIX that he thought these songs would be something they could have in their repertoire if they ever wanted permission to sit in on a rehearsal for a new show and needed to prove that they had once written music. Lucy said that, while Toby had written for himself before, she had never written anything so she had zero expectations. Of course, now Lucy realizes that they wrote something commercially viable because they were trying to appeal to the Edinburgh audiences. These audiences have a lot to choose from so they had to write something that stood out. She also said Edinburgh was a "microcosm" of the world, and I glared because I felt her word choice was a stark reminder that she went to Cambridge and I have a degree in piano performance.

Anyway, the showcases in London went well and the producers decided there should be a tour as well as an album to promote the show before a short run in London. The show began at the Arts Theatre in London, which typically only does limited runs, but the theatre made an exception and brought it back for an open-ended run! Toby and Lucy were so in awe of what was happening when I first interview them that when I mentioned I had heard the song on Spotify, they asked me to clarify if I heard it randomly or if someone suggested it. I told them I heard it randomly and they screamed. I guess they can’t believe it’s streaming around the world. They only started writing it in January of 2017!

It was very cool that they knew who I was because they watch my Playbill Obsessed videos. One of their favorites was the one I did with Keala Settle where she goes up the octave.

Then, when James and I started Stars In The House, we surprised them with Keala. Watch their reaction when she takes their opening number up the octave!

Watch Stars In The House this week! Tuesday is a bunch of original cast members and so many other people who did Grease in the 70s coming on the show to talk about the amazing new book Tell Me More, Tell Me More, telling stories and performing songs from the show! Wednesday is a celebration of the 140th anniversary of the Entertainment Community Fund (neé The Actors Fund)! Get thee to and peace out!


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