Review: Aunty Merle The Musical

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Aunty Merle the MusicalAn outrageously talented South African cast with undeniable on-stage chemistry. Original musical numbers that are sure to stick in your brain for days on end. Perfectly executed choreography with a few outlandish dance moves thrown in for fun. Slapstick comedy sprinkled in between witty one-liners that are met with sassy comebacks. An 8-piece band which could rival the greats with its flawless playing. A quirky and versatile set, complete with moving platform for quick-change scenes. Humorous spins on the daily struggles of the average Capetonian. And, of course, Marc Lottering in a dress and knee-high stockings. Aunty Merle The Musical has it all, and is nothing short of a smash hit.

Any show featuring the ever-popular Marc Lottering can expect hoards of comedy-loving fans flocking to the theatre, and Aunty Merle The Musical is no exception. But this is Lottering’s first venture into the world of musical theatre, and therefore some apprehension is understandable. If done right, a musical can become a classic that transcends generations; if not, it can become a new method of torture. Happily, Lottering has nailed it: this musical is captivating from start to finish.

Lottering’s beloved alter-ego from Belgravia Road might be the star of the show, but she by no means outshines any of the other characters. Every one of the 13 other cast members showcases an impressive capability of dancing, singing and comedic timing, from the well-known names of Tarryn Lamb (BlackByrd), Kate Normington (Funny Girl) and Loukmaan Adams (District Six The Musical) to rising stars Daniel Mpilo Richards, Roberto Kyle and Zandile-Izandi Madliwa. The on-stage chemistry is electric, with an effortless flow of dialogue illustrating the sheer talent this country has to offer. In the current state of the nation, Aunty Merle The Musical is a welcome reminder of all the reasons there are to still be a proud South African.

Not only can the cast act, but they can carry a tune while performing vigorous dance routines involving table-jumps, handstands and can-cans. An original score of 21 songs (written by Lamb and Lottering) combined with a flawless 8-piece band and perfectly-executed choreography (provided by sought-after dancer, Grant van Ster) make for high quality entertainment. From the romantic opening ballad ‘I Believe in Love’ to the upbeat closing number, ‘Everyone Loves a Happy Ending’, not once was a singer out of tune, nor did an instrument strike the wrong chord, and no dancer missed a beat – a professional performance of international standard. Every single cast member is brilliant, but perhaps the two that stand out are Tankiso Mamabolo, whose voice brought tears to the eyes of the manliest of men in the audience, and Stephen Jubber, who portrays his role of lovestruck Bantry Bay-native, Alan White, with such charm and ease, it’s hard not to fall under his overly-enthusiastic puppy-like spell.

It’s not difficult to understand why Aunty Merle The Musical has received standing ovations at the end of every show so far. Anyone who might be hesitant at the thought of a stand-up comic taking part in a full-length musical are sure to be pleasantly surprised by what they see on stage. You don’t have to be a Marc Lottering fan or a theatre buff to enjoy the show – there’s a little something for everyone. You’re guaranteed to leave the theatre with a smile, feeling satisfied and humming the tune to ‘Hier Kom ‘N Ding’. It’s like Aunty Merle says, “everyone loves a happy ending”.

Kirsten Delcie

Aunty Merle the Musical is on at the Baxter Theatre until 13 January 2018. 

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