It's easy to describe the new musical SIX only by the numbers. It's about the six women who married Henry VIII, two of whom he divorced and two of whom he had beheaded. It earned five Olivier Award nominations. And it took barely more than a year to get from its smash West End opening to a Chicago tryout to Broadway previews, beginning this month at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.
But that would leave out the juicy parts: its start in 2017, when a pair of British university students, Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow, wondered what would happen if they turned those 16th-century queens into a girl-power rock group; how their cheeky idea sailed from Cambridge to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it wowed audiences, critics and the producers who would ultimately bring it to London's West End, Broadway and even the Norwegian Cruise Line.
One of those Olivier nominations went to the choreographer, Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, who got on board in June 2018 for the London production. The Guernsey native has a wildly varied resumé. She's choreographed for the hip-hop dance-theater group ZooNation, an Olympics ceremony, concert tours and musicals.
SIX's queens are designed to evoke pop-music stars—Catherine of Aragon, Henry's first, is linked to Beyoncé; Anne Boleyn, who stole him away, alludes to Lily Allen or Avril Lavigne, Ingrouille says. "We had really lengthy discussions about the queen's character, what she stood for. When I started hearing the music attached to each one," she adds, "it gave me a clear indication of where the numbers should go. I wanted to make sure that each queen had her own color palette."
Like the eclectic score, the choreography draws from a variety of genres. "Some of these moves stem from technical jazz, some from house dance, some are more hip-hop based. Some of them are just simply what we call commercial dance over here—a little bit more posey," Ingrouille says. Finding performers with the dance skills and "the lungs to sing it" makes SIX "a show that's asking for quite a lot from the people auditioning for it," she says.
The shipboard cast also contends with the possibility of rough seas, but Ingrouille has that covered—their high-heeled boots come in a slightly lower version for contingencies. "But," she notes, "it's not the kind of choreography where you're going to do a triple pirouette, then kick out into a layout and end in the splits. So they're able to catch themselves if the weather's proving tricky."