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Francine Flores, 15, left, and Zianet Lopez, 15, attend Six, in Toronto, on March 7.Sarah Palmer/The Globe and Mail

You can hear the difference in the audience at Six even more than you can see it.

At a recent Friday night performance at the Royal Alexandra Theatre packed to the rafters, there was a higher pitch to the crowd’s vocal reactions, more unabashed cheering amid the applause – and the laughter, which came often, did so in joyful sororal bursts.

Yes, teenage girls are decidedly in the house for the Toronto production of Six – as they have been at this pop musical about the wives of Tudor monarch Henry VIII on the West End, where it first became a hit six years ago, and on Broadway.

While the Queendom, as the show’s most ardent fans are known, is hardly limited to a single demographic of theatregoers, many teenage girls – such as Bianca Carlucci, a 13-year-old from Ottawa – became theatregoers after finding the show’s score on a music-streaming service and falling in love with it.

Bianca recently attended the show while visiting Toronto with her mom – and it was her first live musical. She already could rattle off the name of all the wives – Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anna of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Catherine Parr – and knew their stories well. The last wife, Parr, is her favourite.

“She was the first woman to publish a book in English under her own name – and as a writer, that was really inspiring to me,” says Bianca.

How did a musical about six queens in early 16th-century England – albeit one with the contemporary resonances clearly highlighted – land on the radar of so many young people amid endless online entertainment competition?

The appeal of Six with a younger demographic begins with the fact that it was written by people not long out of their teens.

Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, who collaboratively wrote the music, lyrics and script, were both studying at the University of Cambridge when they created the first version that opened at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2017.

“We wrote it as students doing a student production – we never expected it to ever become professional,” says Moss, who, with Marlow, would go on to win a Tony Award for Best Original Score in 2022.

The idea the pair had was classic Fringe festival-style stuff: Retell a well-known story in an anachronistic and fun form. In this case, Marlow and Moss revisited the fates of King Henry VIII’s six wives – “divorced; beheaded; died; divorced; beheaded; survived,” as the opening number puts it – as a pop concert, with each queen singing their story in the style of a different diva.

But Six went from just a Fringe hit to international megahit thanks to its producers’ savvy decision to release a cast album to drum up interest for a tour in 2019, rather than waiting for a West End production to record the songs.

“As far as we were concerned, we were doing a promo album – we didn’t ever intend it to be this strategy beyond being, ‘Oh, people seem to vibe to the music, let’s put that out there,’ ” Moss says.

People did indeed vibe: As of this March, the original U.K. album has streamed more than 460 million times on Spotify, 120 million on Apple and 85 million on Amazon.

Producer Kenny Wax, who got on board with the show after its Fringe run, says that initial recording plus the subsequent Broadway first-night cast album (featuring Canada’s Andrea Macasaet as Anne Boleyn) have one billion streams collectively at this point.

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First- and second-year McMaster University students attend Six, in Toronto, on March 7.Sarah Palmer/The Globe and Mail

“The popularity of the album and the success of the streaming brought a widespread awareness of the production that we could not have bought with our limited budgets if we had been purchasing traditional advertising space,” Wax wrote in an e-mail.

“The younger crowds who found the show through the music then urged their parents with ‘pester power’ to buy them tickets.”

But there was one more important element to the rise of Six: It made its debut the same year that the short-form video platform TikTok launched in the international market.

Whether it’s the gallows humour of Anne Boleyn singing “sorry, not sorry ‘bout what I said / don’t lose your head” in a pop-punk style like Avril Lavigne, or Jane Seymour emotionally belting “You can build me up / You can tear me down / You can try but I’m unbreakable” like a medieval Adele, the show is full of repurposeable lines that have made snippets of the score go viral as the basis for user-generated videos on TikTok.

“We were the first show, certainly in the U.K., to reach out proactively to TikTok ... and the first week that Anne Boleyn’s song Don’t Lose Your Head appeared on that platform, it had half a billion shares,” writes Wax.

Maya Gee, a 15-year-old from Barrie, Ont., first stumbled on the existence of Six in the summer of 2022 on TikTok. “I went down a rabbit hole of the videos attached to it,” she says. TikTok is how Bianca first came across Six’s music last spring, too, after users lipsyncing to tracks appeared on her feed.

When Maya discovered that the Canadian production was coming to Toronto in 2023, she started asking her mother if they could go. “Then on Christmas she surprised me and my sister with tickets,” she says.

Knowing all the songs from Six in advance only made Maya appreciate the live show more. Indeed, the Grade 10 student and the five other women from her family who accompanied her to see the show in January were all prepared, each dressed in the colour of the costumes of a different one of the show’s six wives.

“I was Anne Boleyn,” says Maya, who noted many other people her age in attendance, including others who dressed up. “I really loved it. I thought it was amazing.”

The Canadian production of Six was extended this week to May 26 at the Royal Alexandra Theatre in Toronto. Tickets are available at

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