(Alex Marshall’s article appeared in The New York Times, 12/9; updated 9/14 : Photo: A security guard takes ticket holders’ temperatures before a performance of “Six” in London, on Dec. 5.Credit…Photographs by Suzanne Plunkett for The New York Times; via Pam Green.)
For nine months, the hit musical about the wives of Henry VIII has tried to keep the show going. But that’s not easy in a pandemic.
LONDON — At 3:15 p.m. on Dec. 5, a line of theater fans stretched outside the Lyric in London’s West End, all desperate to see the return of “Six,” the hit musical about Henry VIII’s wives.
The show was scheduled to start 45 minutes later, when it would become the first musical to be staged in the West End since theaters were shuttered in March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
But some in line were anxious that the curtain might not rise.
“All day, I’ve been, like, ‘Something bad’s going to happen,’” said Beth Donovan, 20. She worried that authorities might stop the performance at the last minute, she said, or — worse — that someone in the cast might have caught the virus.
She wasn’t the only one concerned. “On the way here, we said we wouldn’t believe it was happening until we were actually in our seats and the music was on,” said Lauren Bullen, 37, who was with her daughter Holly, 8.
Concerns like these might seem over the top, but “Six” has had a worse year than arguably any other theater production in Britain, highlighting just how hard it has been to put on a show during the pandemic.
Written in 2017 by Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, two college students, “Six” reimagines the wives of Henry VIII competing in a song contest for the title of the king’s most unfortunate wife. (The two who were beheaded have an advantage.)
Its catchy songs, funny dialogue and message of female empowerment have won it a legion of fans worldwide, known as the “Queendom,” who dress up as its characters and spread its music across social media.
Before the pandemic, there was a production of “Six” in London’s West End, and touring versions in Britain, Australia and on several cruise ships. A Broadway show was in previews too, with a Chicago production that debuted in 2019 set to return and another in the Philippines in the works.
But then, in March, as coronavirus cases rose sharply in New York, the show’s Broadway opening night was canceled, just hours before curtain.