A witty, pop-fueled and daring musical, SIX The Musical remixes the story of the six wives of Henry VIII – Britain’s famous Tudor King – as they take to the mic to retell their stories and reclaim their HERstories, once and for all. Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr. Inspired by the canon of music divas Adele, Lily Allen and Ariana Grande, and with the support of SIX Ladies in Waiting, the women transform from Tudor Queens to Pop Princesses as they tell their rebellious stories.
What’s really unique about SIX is the show’s approach to costumes. Not only does each character have their own bespoke color-coded outfit, each individual swing has their own costume in a unique design and color, as well as multiple variations of skirt, shoulder pad, and pants. Each performer brings their own personal touch to their costume – even the band! Working on these brilliant pieces, designed by Tony Award-winning Gabriella Slade, is famed associate costume designer Nigel Shaw.
Nigel began designing and making costumes in 1995. Coming from a dance background, Nigel has the edge over his peers. Taking into account all his knowledge on the aspects of movement and restriction when designing costumes, he has an expertise that allows him to meet the needs of each client and create a tailor-made garment to order, while possessing a talent for imagining unique looks and creating a completely original production. show costumes for entire casts. Nigel is internationally recognized for his attention to detail and for incorporating elaborate hand finishing details on each of his costumes, no matter the size of the job.
How did you get into the costume industry? (training, inspiration, background, etc.)
Nigel: I was a professional artist for many years where I would often sneak in to see the wardrobe department and pick out my outfit for the following weeks recordings. I then started doing shows where I was allowed to design costume sets that me and the male cast would wear. I really wanted to learn how to make all those great costumes you see in movies or musicals, but I had no formal training, so I pestered various Sydney costume makers at the time to teach me why. and how things are done a certain way and I was hooked. My early creative inspirations came a lot from a theatrical approach rather than traditional fashion, like Terry Mugler, Bob Mackey (Cher, Elton John, Bette Midler), Alexandra McQueen and Gregg Barnes (Aladdin the Musical). The more details there are on a costume, the better I say!
What was the most exciting part of the costume SIX?
Nigel: It’s largely two parts, the first being responsible for recreating and maintaining the integrity of the original costume designs here in Australia for UK costume designer SIX Gabriella Slade, (whom I flew to the UK for meet and see the backstage costumes for this “marginal festival show” that had just taken off.) The second part is the fact that I was able to make these very beautiful and detailed structured “armor” style costumes. Having to find creative ways to make the costumes look like the drawings while allowing each queen to move freely for choreography, function and their comfort! So it’s kind of like a game.
How is SIX different from other shows you’ve worked on?
Nigel: I have to say that because it’s a very small and intimate production, all of the elements that go into this show are really honed, every detail can be looked at and tweaked and in some cases updated. On much larger productions they are very cut and glued from the design/manufacturing process. On SIX, the queens are given their own personal touches, i.e. hairstyles and crowns. Even the bridesmaids can be seen throughout the show and sport a very different “group” look with their own design of studded boots!
What might people not realize about the show’s costumes?
Nigel: How structured the costumes really are!, there are up to 9 layers of PVC thickness for some parts with the trimmings and nails added on top. Each bodice can literally stand on its own, fun fact, each nail, spike and stone used has been individually glued on…over 700 nails are on Parr’s leggings, and each pair of Queen’s boots has over a thousand stones and takes 1 week to make each pattern.
SIX gives all cast members their own unique costumes, swings included. Why do you think this is an important addition?
Nigel: It really starts from day one of rehearsal, each queen finds her own inner queen style based on how she feels about her own design. Each costume adds a certain strength and flair, and it makes each performer own that character, for example Katherine Howard has a more teenage feel to it with her crop top and skirt which helps portray her youthful character, but you have Cleves in a very powerful high-angled bolero jacket for his take-no-prisoners feel. Even the orange swing has its own unique look that allows it to swing for any role and still represent each queen in their own unique way.
Do you have a favorite costume piece out of all the queens?
Nigel: It’s really like asking which child is your favorite… I really like each of Gabriella’s designs. However, there are elements of each costume that I love, for example Aragon’s sleeves, Boleyn’s fluted skirt, Seymour’s corset, Cleves shorts, Howard’s crop top, and Parr’s crop top. leggings…these really add dimensions to both the story and this queen.
SIX The Musical currently playing at the Comedy Theater in Melbourne.
For tickets and more information, visit www.sixthemusical.com/australia
Header image credit: James D. Morgan