The red velvet seats at the Brooks Atkinson Theater on West 47th Street were covered by tech tables of computers, cables and consoles operated by designers, directors and stage managers. An audience was not due until the first preview on Friday night.
But the anticipation was nevertheless high for a dress rehearsal of “Six,” the British musical dreamed up by two college students that imagines the wives of Henry VIII as pop stars.
In one of the more poignant examples of the pandemic’s toll on the theater, the musical’s opening night turned out to be its closing night instead: The show had been scheduled to open March 12, 2020, the day Broadway shut down.
Now “Six” will find out if the loss of 18 months has cost the show any momentum; its original opening had been buoyed by advance sales, multiple productions, a hugely popular soundtrack and fans who had been following the show since its 2017 premiere at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
So there were effusive whoops and cheers from the crew in attendance when the curtain came up on the show’s six queens, fully decked out in their sparkly costumes, glittering boots and — in some cases — crowns.
“We’re finding ways of readjusting the show to who these performers are now — who these queens are at this moment in time, who their 2021 selves are, where these songs are coming from,” said Jamie Armitage, who directed the musical with Lucy Moss. “There’s a depth and fire to some of the performances which I haven’t seen before.”
“I think it’s the time away, realizing what theater means and what it means to congregate,” Armitage continued, adding that the show’s theme was newly resonant: “The group is more powerful than the individual.”
The production’s diverse, all female cast and band — and its message of sisterhood and self-empowerment — also resonates with the lessons of the lockdown period, specifically a heightened awareness about the importance of equal opportunities for women and people of color. The musical concludes by calling out “patriarchal structures.”
The dress rehearsal went smoothly, running its 85-minute, intermission-free duration without any apparent technical hitch. And after the confetti had fallen on the curtain call, the two directors rehearsed the bows again. Then they introduced a new idea: The cast took selfies from the stage.
“Six” will start previews on Friday, the same night David Byrne’s “American Utopia” begins a return engagement, as Broadway’s reopening gathers momentum. Another 28 shows are scheduled to begin performances before the end of the year.
As the “Six” actors dispersed for a dinner break — before returning to the theater for notes — Moss, who co-wrote the show with Toby Marlow, said she was feeling cautiously optimistic.
“Until it’s open and running I’m not going to be like, ‘We’re back,’ because who knows what’s going to happen?” she said. “It makes you very grateful for every moment in the room.”