Vaudeville theatre

How the British musical conquered the world

What do Henry VIII’s wives, a Rastafarian musical icon and a drag queen have in common? They are all the subjects of new stage shows that are heralding a golden age of the British musical. Let’s start with the court of Henry VIII. A pair of friends at Cambridge University, Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, decided to write their own musical four years ago because the student theatre society couldn’t afford to pay the royalties for an existing one. They based it on the life stories of the six women who were unfortunate enough to marry Henry VIII. Six, as this debut effort came to be known, opens on Broadway

As an essay in cheap comedy the show is a great success: Emilia reviewed

Emilia is a period piece about Emilia Bassano who may have been the ‘dark lady’ of Shakespeare’s sonnets. The writer, Morgan Lloyd Malcolm, declines to turn the subject into a history play and instead creates a larky sketch show with snippets of literary gossip. Our heroine enters as a frightened teenager contemplating the horrors of courtship: ‘Men sniff at me like dogs.’ Marriage, she shudders, will crush her, mind and body. ‘As I grow, I must shrink.’ She’s also a poet who needs a publisher but she’s thwarted by institutional sexism in the book trade. ‘Women’s poetry?’ screeches a male reader. ‘The most dangerous rubbish I’ve ever seen.’ At court,