Point Park alum Jana Larell Glover is an alternate for three lucky queens in the national tour of the ‘concert spectacle’
By SHARON EBERSON
Welcome to the Queendom of SIX, where history is her-story, Henry VIII is merely mentioned, and the women he married get their turn in the spotlight.
That’s pretty much how the concert musical that has taken the UK and USA by storm begins, with the members of Henry’s ex-wives club telling audiences to forget what they think they know and prepare for a “histo-remix.”
Of these six former queens of England, three got away relatively easy – with their heads intact, at least, and with queenly fortunes at best.
As an alternate in the touring company of SIX, Jana Larell Glover has played wives Nos. 1 and 3, Catherine of Aragon and Anna of Cleves, and perhaps the luckiest of all, No. 6, Catherine Parr, who outlived the king
“None of my queens die!,” Glover said with a laugh, then added, “At the hands of Henry, I mean.”
The Point Park University graduate was on the phone from the tour stop in Milwaukee, less than a week before her return to Pittsburgh, where the tour will rule the Benedum Center, March 14-19.
Point Park alum Jana Larell Glover as Anna of Cleves (center), in the North American Tour Boleyn Company of SIX. (Image by Joan Marcus)
The tour of SIX is Glover’s national tour debut. The native Floridian was a senior when, three years ago this week, the Point Park Conservatory of Performing Arts opened and closed a hard-won production of Pippin in one night.
The next night, March 13, 2020, the nationwide pandemic shutdown was launched.
Speaking of that night brought on a wave of nostalgia, Glover said, and added to her excitement about coming back with this production.
She will arrive as part of perhaps the most highly anticipated show of the PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh season. Billed as “a pop concert spectacle,” SIX boasts music by Tony Award-winners Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss and choreography by Carrie-Anne Ingrouille, plus a fan base of cosplayers enthralled by the Tony-winning costumes created by Gabriella Slade.
It’s 80 minutes straight through of women power, about people whose lives are often reduced to how they died, not how they lived.
As cast members go on vacation or take a break for whatever reason, Glover has to be able to embody one of three different characters with different musical numbers and costumes, on any given night.
Preparation for the singer-dancer-actor included studying documentaries and reading up on the women and the times – Henry’s reign was 1509-47 – before bringing their stories into the modern age.
Through “extensive character and physical work,” Glover is able to keep the queens straight in her mind and body.
“What’s beautiful about this show is that our individuality is celebrated through each queen, so my queens are not expected to look like anyone else’s version of that queen,” Glover said. “So I really have the freedom to just find my own version of what that looks like in my body, or what it sounds like in my voice.”
Asked to name a trait that represents each of the characters she covers in SIX, she began with Henry’s first wife.
“Catherine of Aragon is definitely the most powerful, the most assertive, the most dominant,” Glover said. “I would say that Anna of Cleves is the most outgoing. She has the most confidence, and she feeds off of the energy of other people. And then I would say that Catherine Parr is a little bit more intellectual, always thinking ‘big picture.’ She’s not quite as vocal as the other two, but she’s really, really smart. She kind of brings, she kind of brings the story together at the end.
Among the ill-fated wives of Henry VIII, Jane Seymour is played by 2020 Penn State graduate Amina Faye, in her national tour debut. The cast also includes Gerianne Perez as Catherine of Aragon, Zan Berube as Anne Boleyn, Terica Marie as Anna of Cleves, Aline Mayagoitia as Katherine Howard and Sydney Parra as Catherine Parr.
A Quick Her-story of Henry VIII’s Ex-Wives
- Catharine of Aragon – divorced. (She was 23 and he was 17 when they married.)
- Anne Boleyn – beheaded. (Executed on charges including adultery, incest and conspiracy.)
- Jane Seymour – died in childbirth. (She died after the birth of her only child, the future King Edward VI. She received a queen’s funeral and is buried beside Henry.)
- Anna Of Cleves – divorced. (Her marriage was declared unconsummated; she made out pretty well as Henry’s “Beloved Sister.”)
- Katherine Howard – beheaded. (She was 18 or so when executed on charges of adultery, and is buried alongside her cousin, Anne Boleyn.)
- Catharine Parr – outlived Henry. (She became queen dowager and, about six months after Henry death, she married her fourth and final husband.0
Each queen’s costume has been created with a specific color and style – the better to distinguish them as individuals using a girl group model, a la the Spice Girls.
The costumes do come with specific challenges for the performers, especially someone such as Glover. As an alternate, she has less of an opportunity to work out the potential kinks.
“It was so funny in the beginning because the costumes are, you know, they’re very beautifully designed, and they’re all like plastic and metal, and there’s chains and spikes, and the more you wear them, the more they kind of form to your body. As alternates, because we didn’t go on as often, getting dressed was almost the hardest part,” she said.
The obvious next question was, with all of those, um, moving parts, has that led to wardrobe malfunctions onstage?
“Oh, all the time!,” Glover said, laughing. “I mean, like, threads get caught in spikes and hair gets caught in it and there’s confetti everywhere. I think that’s honestly what keeps the show exciting for us, too. It’s like, what’s going to happen?” She laughs again. “There’s a couple of fun costume moments that you don’t want to give away too soon, but sometimes, the costume’s just not working with you that day. And you’re like, well, there goes my pants …”
More laughter, no spoilers.
Back in 2020, when Point Park got one performance of Pippin in before the shutdown, SIX, already a UK sensation, had its Broadway debut put on hold. The concrete musical finally opened on Oct. 3, 2021, earning eight Tony nominations and the two wins, for score and costumes.
The anticipation was already there – at BroadwayCon in 2020, the original cast performed a number and could look out at an audience that included young women in versions of their costumes.
You’ll find the same is true now that SIX continues its run at Broadway’s newly named Lena Horne Theatre (previously the Mansfield Theatre and the Brooks Atkinson Theatre) and in two North American Tours (the Aragon and Boleyn Tours).
“This is another thing that makes SIX so special – the fans are incredible,” Glover said. “They really show us a lot of love. They love to wait outside at the stage door. Some of them are dressed, some of them have fan art. They make us treats.”
She looks forward to chatting with the mostly youngsters who come to rub elbows with stage royalty night after night, “and they’re just so like, wide-eyed and inspired and it, it takes you back to when you were at that age and looked up to people that were performers. It is a really beautiful thing.”
So far, Nashville has been the top city for feeling the love from the audience. Pittsburgh, however, holds a special place in her heart.
“I feel like I grew up in the city because I spent the beginning of my adult life there,” Glover said. “So there’s lots of memories, lots of people that help me get to where I am today. It’ll just be a really, really special time to be back.”
She “guarantees” a special time for Pittsburghers who step into the Queendom of SIX, They will come away with a message of empowerment, Glover said, and “a reminder to never let anyone silence your voice.”
The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust/PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh presentation of “SIX” is March 14-19 at the Benedum Center, Downtown. Tickets and information: https://trustarts.org/production/81543/six or by calling 412-456-4800. (The Trust’s website indicates no availability or limited availability throughout the run.)
Categories: Show Previews
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