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A half-dozen reasons to see ‘Six’ at the Ordway; Bly and Rowan Pope at Burnet Fine Art

ALSO: Great Black Music Monday at Icehouse; Walking Shadow Theater Company’s “Cabal”; and more.

Photo by Liz Lauren/Courtesy of Chicago Shakespeare Theater
“Six” remixes 500 years of history into a celebration of 21st-century female empowerment.
This year’s holiday show at the Ordway was supposed to be “Ever After,” a new musical based on the 1998 film starring Drew Barrymore and Angelica Huston. A revisionist take on the Cinderella story, it tells of a princess whose intelligence and independence win the heart of a handsome prince. We’ll see it in the next Broadway at the Ordway season.

Meanwhile, buckle up for “Six.” This is a revisionist take on a verse most of us know: “Henry VIII, to six wives he was wedded/One died, one survived, two divorced, two beheaded.” Except in “Six,” Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Catherine Parr are alive and kicking, dancing and posing in sparkly platform shoes.

All are through with being “just one word in a stupid rhyme.” They want to tell their stories in song and let the world know who they really were. Backed by a rowdy live band on stage, they sing in the styles of today’s pop stars: Beyoncé, Adele, Rihanna, Ariana Grande. “Six” is all singing and dancing, more concert than musical. There’s no plot. It’s loosely framed as a “Voice”-type competition, where the queen who was treated worst by Henry will emerge as the winner.

Written by Lucy Moss and Toby Marlow, two Cambridge University students, “Six” took off like a rocket soon after its debut at the Edinburgh Fringe in Aug. 2017. A hit on London’s West End, it earned five Olivier Award nominations. The cast album is currently No. 10 on the Billboard chart and the second-highest streaming cast recording in the world. A recent headline in Playbill reads “Musical Continues World Domination.”

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After “Six” closes at the Ordway, its next stop will be Broadway – a first for the Ordway. Creators Moss and Marlow will still be in their mid-20s.

If you don’t enjoy loud pop music and bright lights in your eyes, “Six” might not be for you. It’s being compared to “Hamilton,” but it’s not “Hamilton.” Still, there are plenty of reasons to go to the buzziest show in the Twin Cities. Here are six for “Six”:

  1. It has a diverse all-female cast and an all-female band.
  2. It has a clear girl-power message. If you have tweens or teens in your life, bring them to “Six” if you can.
  3. The songs are catchy and the lyrics are smart and witty. “Haus of Holbein” is hilarious.
  4. It’s fun and fast – 80 nonstop minutes, with no intermission.
  5. If “Six” turns out to be a hit on Broadway, you can brag that you saw it here first. (People still say that about “The Lion King.”)
  6. It’s exciting to be part of a revved-up crowd. We were seated by a couple who clapped, whistled, pumped their fists and shouted “Woo!” pretty much the whole time.

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One wee caveat: There are some suggestive lyrics and moves. But these go by so quickly most kids won’t have time to ask “Hey Mom, what does ____ mean?”

People are saying that “Six” makes them want to know more about Henry’s wives. If “Hamilton” inspired readings of the Federalist Papers, maybe “Six” will drive fans to the library for David Starkey and Antonia Fraser.

“Six” continues at the Ordway through Dec. 22. FMI and tickets ($45.50-128.50).

The picks

Still at 2010 East Hennepin in Minneapolis: “Cabal.” Have you seen “Cabal,” Walking Shadow Theatre Company’s immersive play-with-puzzles? When it opened in July, tickets were available through Sept. 29. Plans were to keep it going as long as people kept coming. “Cabal” has been extended again, this time through Feb. 2. That’s a long run for a play, even when audience size is limited to 10. We saw it in September, and though the cast has since changed, this will give you an idea of what to expect. Maybe get together with friends and buy out a whole night? Or go on your own and experience “Cabal” with strangers. We did that and enjoyed it very much. FMI and tickets ($45).

Now at the Mixed Blood: “The Viking and the Gazelle.” Playwrights William P. Bengtson and Suzanne Bengston are a mixed-race Twin Cities couple, and this new play – which premiered at the 2019 Fringe to rave reviews – is based on their own lives and experiences. E.G. Bailey and Shá Cage, also a couple in real life, are the directors. Recommended for ages 15 and up. FMI and tickets ($35). Closes Dec. 15.

"Fred Manfred Jr. as a Boy," graphite on paper, 17 x 14 inches framed
Bly Pope and Rowan Pope
"Fred Manfred Jr. as a Boy," graphite on paper, 17 x 14 inches framed
Tonight (Friday, Dec. 6) at Burnet Fine Art & Advisory: Opening reception for “The Sky and the Earth: Drawings and Paintings by Bly Pope and Rowan Pope.” We keep trekking out to Ralph Burnet’s gallery in Wayzata because we really like the artists featured. This year alone, we’ve seen a fascinating installation by Eric Rieger (HOTTEA) and new work by fine art photographer R.J. Kern and artist Chris Larson. Gallery director Jennifer Phelps is icing the cake with a year-ending show of photorealistic pencil drawings and oil paintings by twin brothers Bly and Rowan Pope, who have worked side by side their entire lives, often making drawings together. Sons of poet Freya Manfred, grandsons of famed Minnesota novelist Frederick Manfred, they had their first exhibition at Mia in 2018. Their work is deeply involving and highly detailed. They’ll be at tonight’s reception. 6-8 p.m. FMI. Closes Jan. 18, 2020.

Holiday Cookie Contest cookies
Courtesy of Mill City Museum
Holiday Cookie Contest cookies
Saturday at Mill City Museum: Star Tribune Holiday Cookie Contest Winners. Each year, the Star Tribune holds a Holiday Cookie Contest. Readers send in their favorite recipes, and the winner and finalists are announced in the Taste section. Then, in a sweet and sugary Saturday afternoon in the Baking Lab at Mill City Museum, people come to meet the winners and sample the recipes. Food writer Rick Nelson will be there to talk about the contest, how it is judged, and what makes a great holiday cookie. 1-3 p.m. Included with museum admission ($6-12). FMI.

Monday at Icehouse: Great Black Music Monday. Mankwe Ndosi continues her monthlong residency for Monday Night Jazz with the debut of M4D, a new ensemble featuring poet Douglas Kearney, multi-instrumentalist Douglas R. Ewart, saxophonist Donald Washington, drummer Davu Seru and Ndosi on vocals. The evening will start with recorded music by pianist and composer Geri Allen and end with Ndosi’s version of a jam session. 7 p.m. FMI and tickets ($15 advance, $20 door).

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Holiday pick: Historic house tours

The Minnesota Historical Society maintains two very fine houses loaded with history in St. Paul. Both dress up for the holidays. For adults and kids, it’s enjoyable and enlightening to walk through spaces where real families once lived and imagine how life might have been for them. The Gilded Age James J. Hill House, former home of the railroad magnate, offers guided tours and self-guided tours. The Victorian Alexander Ramsey House, former home of Minnesota’s first territorial and second state governor, has guided tours with cookies fresh from the wood-burning stove. Tickets $8-12.

The Prairie-style Purcell-Cutts House in Minneapolis was bequeathed to Mia in 1985. A lot of people don’t know about this gem east of Lake of the Isles. The home has been decorated for the holidays, and on Saturdays and Sundays through Jan. 5, costumed docents will lead 45-minute tours. Meet at Mia’s Third Ave. entrance and take the shuttle. FMI. $5.