NEW YORK — Who says queens can’t wear sweatpants? 

Perched above Times Square in a rehearsal space lined with backpacks and bags of takeout orders, the regal stars of “Six,” Broadway’s vivacious pop musical, have traded in their sparkly skirts and platform shoes for bike shorts and sneakers. This is only the second. week they’ve all been together in the same room since the pandemic shuttered Broadway in March 2020, hours before their opening night. 

It’s a late summer afternoon and the mood is ebullient among the tight-knit crew, who playfully rib and cheer each other on, much like the characters they portray on stage. Presented as a Spice Girls-style concert, the show centers on the ex-wives of King Henry VIII – Catherine of Aragon (Adrianna Hicks), Anne Boleyn (Andrea Macasaet), Jane Seymour (Abby Mueller), Anna of Cleves (Brittney Mack), Katherine Howard (Samantha Pauly) and Catherine Parr (Anna Uzele) — who bond over personal tragediesFind strength and sisterhood. 

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That resolve is reflected behind the scenes, too. 

“We have all grown in this past year. Macasaet states that it is important to realize how much everything matters. Every rehearsal began with a gratitude round where participants shared what they felt that day, including the bad, ugly and the beautiful. And you would share one thing that you were grateful for, whether it was the sun shining or a conversation with a loved one. Because we all are just humans, the stakes for Broadway were not so high. 

As masked members of the show’s creative team look on, the dynamic cast get in formation and perform a swaggering dance break: first, to the tune of Busta Rhymes’ “Pass the Courvoisier Part II,” before transposing that same choreography to the show’s “Get Down.” 

A rehearsal of "Six," a Broadway musical that was shut down on what was supposed to be its opening night on March 12, 2020, due to the pandemic.

It’s all about the vibe. Hicks chuckles, saying that she loves the vibe of her cast. We’re doing the same things as when I was a little girl in my bedroom. When you were younger, you didn’t need a major costume — all you needed was your My Size Barbie dress and little (aluminum) foil microphone. But this time, you have a costume that’s custom-made that looks like something Beyoncé would wear, with beautiful wigs and a luscious crown of gold. This is a dream that has come true. 

In their own words, some of the queens and creators of “Six” reflect on their long road to reopening on Broadway, from shutdown to opening night – 18 months later.

Learn more:Broadway increases mandate for vaccine and mask until 2021

Andrea Macasaet, center, plays the famously beheaded Anne Boleyn.

“Things such as that do not happen here”

Following a 2019 North American tour, “Six” began preview performances on Broadway Feb. 13, 2020, at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Meanwhile, the first confirmed COVID-19 death in the U.S. occurred earlier that month in Santa Clara County, California. The CDC declared that the virus was on the verge of becoming a pandemic.

Lucy Moss (co-creator/co-director):This really crept up upon me. Because I was in tech-induced coma, it wasn’t easy to read the news and see people not involved in the program. There were a couple little things: We went to a New York Times interview and had a look around their offices, and stood in the back of one of their morning staff meetings. Then they said, “Coronavirus was the most searched subject.” And I was like “That’s strange.” This is what everyone cares about. Then, a few days before opening, it felt like “Oh, that’s right at your doorstep.”

A rehearsal of Six, a musical that was shut down on what was supposed to be opening night on March 12, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The musical is set to open later this month with an official Broadway opening on October 03, 2021. Lucy Moss, co-director and co-creator, at a rehearsal. Photographed at New 42nd Street Studios in New York City, NY on Tuesday September 07, 2021.

Toby Marlow (cocreator) The New York Times was saying, “All anyone wants to hear about is coronavirus.” It was like “Really?” There are a Show“Opening.” (Laughs. (Laughs.) We’ll be fine — things like that don’t happen here.”

Kevin McCollum (producer): There were starting to be rumblings, but it hadn’t officially been declared that this is anything more than a surface virus. We were focusing on the principle of “Keep it clean.” When you sign a program, don’t touch the pen of another person (at the door). Even the outside was cleaned. It was pretty clear leading up to the (opening) that we might have to take a pause, but it was also something that hadn’t happened (before), so it was hard to imagine. 

"Six" queens Jane Seymour (Abby Mueller, left), Katherine Howard (Samantha Pauly), Catherine of Aragon (Adrianna Hicks), Anne Boleyn (Andrea Macasaet), Anna of Cleves (Brittney Mack) and Catherine Parr (Anna Uzele).

“We will be in touch”

“Six” was slated to open March 12, 2020. Hours before curtain, then-governor Andrew Cuomo placed a ban on large gatherings to help curb the spread of the virus, shuttering all Broadway theaters. 

Marlow I’d just bought a top at Zara for the after party and I got a text from our agents being like, “Have you seen this?”

Moss I was weirdly in a taxi going to get my hair done for the opening, so I heard the announcement on the radio as it was happening. It was so weird that I used my cellphone to see if it was true. I then got out of the taxi and started a new one. It’s hard to believe that I didn’t go with the “Can we turn this taxi around?” 

'Within the span of an hour, I had gone grocery shopping and sent my brother and my mom back on a plane,' Adrianna Hicks, left, said about the day Broadway shut down last year. She and Anna Uzele, right, rehearsed in Manhattan in early September.

McCollumThe rehearsal was to last until 5. But at 4:00, they stopped and I said, “Everyone go to your dressing room, take your things. For four weeks, we’ll be closing down. “We’ll get in touch” 

Adrianna Hicks (actress and Catherine of Aragon) It was two or three hours before curtain at that point, and I got a call from my agent saying, “It looks like the governor is going to shut down Broadway after all.” Within 10 minutes, I received official news (from “Six”) It was then a mad rush to try and get my family out. In less than an hour I was done grocery shopping, and had my mother and brother on their way. 

Is this the end of civilization?

Broadway League declared that all performances would be suspended from April 12th 2020. But as cases spiked and the pandemic raged across the city, the reopening date continued to move, as did many who worked in theater. 

HicksAfter we had closed, I left the city. Rumours circulated that domestic flights would be shut down. I was certain I’d eventually want to visit my brother in Atlanta. To me, his backyard is like “Jurassic Park” and I enjoy being outside. Having that time with him – what went from three weeks to six months – was really lovely. 

Moss I flew back two days later – (Marlow) and I were on the same flight home. The evening of the shutdown, we gathered ill-advisedly with some of the company and producers, who were like, “We’ll be the first to reopen in four weeks time!” The thought of that “That’s not gonna happen” was what I remembered. Is it possible to fix the virus by then? My cynicism was so extreme that I thought, “I don’t believe we’ll reopen until September 2020.” It was clear that we felt it would take more than two weeks. However, September 2020 seemed like a good time to suggest. 

Andrea Macasaet (actress, Anne Boleyn): It was pretty clear that Broadway would be closing down by April 31st. When it was extended to the summertime, it was then that I realized, “OK. I’m returning home to Canada!” Was there a chance that “Six” would never return? No, our production team was really good at communicating with us and reassuring that we were gonna make a comeback. Fear number two was, “How can I sustain financially and emotionally this long?” 

Marlow During lockdown, I don’t think I thought, “Oh God, is this the end of ‘Six?’ Is the show ruined?” It was a difficult question to answer. Is this the apocalypse?” 

Anna of Cleves (Brittney Mack), center, is the "queen of the castle" in "Six."

“Not as restrictive as you might think” 

Cuomo lifted restrictions on public gatherings early in May 2021 to allow theaters to reopen. Many Broadway productions have announced their reopening dates in September. This gives cast and crew plenty of time to rebuild and implement COVID safety procedures. 

Marlow You can find several COVID safety officers working on this show right now. Regular testing is done three times per week. You must wear a mask at all times, except when you are a Queen performing “Six”. 

Brittney Mack, left, Anna Uzele, Adrianna Hicks, Abby Mueller, Samantha Pauly and choreographer Carrie-Anne Ingrouille during a rehearsal at New 42nd Street Studios in Manhattan in early September.

MossYou might not think it was as strict as you would imagine. When we rehearsed the West End (production of “Six”) back in November, December last year when vaccinations weren’t a thing, there were much higher stakes. It’s not just about protocols on Broadway. The rules don’t need to be changed: There’s no way for people to borrow or swap microphones. 

HicksIt’s a feeling of increased awareness. If you are practicing, your mask can be removed. But as soon as you’re done, you put the mask back on and they have to air out the room. You get an additional layer.

“A bucket of tears”

“Six” went into rehearsals in August, ahead of its first performance Sept. 17, 2021. The show had the feeling of a Beyoncé concert, with screaming fans and standing ovations after nearly every song. Tech issues caused the performance to be halted approximately 10 minutes into its run. 

Macasaet There’s no perfect show, and this is the beauty of theater. 

HicksThis was very funny. Bonnie Panson (production stage manager) was so beautiful that she took to the mic and said, “Um Queens, could you please leave the stage?” It was great to feel the support of the audience as well. There was a great deal of emotion throughout the show and an overwhelming feeling of gratitude. A bucket of tears. 

Catherine of Aragon (Adrianna Hicks, center) sings the show-stopping "No Way" in "Six."

“The journey really begins.”

“Six” opened on Oct. 3, 2020, earning raves from critics. The show is just like every Broadway production. All audience members must continue to have their vaccinations and be wearing masks all through the performance.

McCollum Theatergoers are immune to vaccine hesitation. Theatergoers will come to see you if they are collaborative thinkers and feel the world has more to them than themselves. So the only obstacle now is that it might take a little longer to get into the theater, because we have to check vaccines. But I think everybody can handle this – hopefully short term – inconvenience to build Broadway back to where it was. 

Hicks Even after the opening night is over, many more things will happen. You can’t just say, “We did it!” This is when the real journey begins. Reminiscing about the last year and half is making me emotional. It seemed like I blinked and now we’re back. However, I am here to start a new chapter in my life. 

MarlowThis show is so exciting to me. Sharing something you are proud of is a great feeling. 

Macasaet This Broadway show is so joyous that there are few like it. The world in which we live is represented by “Six”. You will see women of different backgrounds, sizes and colors. My role is that of Anne Boleyn, a Filipina woman. Brittney Mack plays the role of a Black queen. It creates possibility for others to see themselves within us, and it also creates tangibility. It makes the potential for young Filipino girls to see I can accomplish this all the more real. 

Source: USAToday.com

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