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Aunty Merle: The Musical

Mark Lottering brings Athlone to Joburg in Family Fun Musical.

By David Simmons

Joburg Theatre is infused with bucket loads of wit and charm this March where Aunty Merle: The Musical has taken centre stage. Together with abundant local humour, local problems and some of the best one-liners on offer, audiences are in for a very special homegrown experience! Aunty Merle: The Musical is making its Johannesburg debut after two successful runs in Cape Town.

There is something quite remarkable about productions with an authentic feel, especially ones that represent people from each corner of society. We as an audience find solace when privy to stories that reflect and mimic one’s own life and inner feelings, making ones theatrical experience all the more worthwhile. If there was ever a time where humour in our country is most needed, Aunty Merle: The Musical sets the standard for huge comedic relief, igniting a warm and welcoming energy to the stage.

This family inspired musical, straight from the heart of Cape Town’s bustling Athlone has a certain tenderness to it, yet at the same time exudes strong themes with equally strong characters who make sure their stories are told in the best possible light. Aunty Merle Abrahams is no stranger to Cape Town, and for those who have enjoyed her antics over the years will find her anecdotes and comedy prowess all the more appealing.

Merle, or as she is commonly referred to as Athlone’s Rose is in fact the brain child of Marc Lottering and one could say his alter ego. She has been part of Marc’s one man shows for many years and although she may have aged ever so slightly, she is still a force to be reckoned with. Lottering is almost unrecognisable as Merle who epitomises the true characteristics of a typical house wife on Belgravia Road in Cape Town.

There is gossip aplenty at the Abrahams resident, especially with Merle’s faithful neighbour Soraya, portrayed by Carmen Maarman and housekeeper/friend Lidia depicted by Tankiso Mamabolo who’s vocal talents are worthy of praise. Royston Stoffels acts as Merle’s husband Dennis whose affection for his wife is loving and kind-heated. Their Son Carl, coming to terms with his own sexuality is sensitively performed by Anzio September whose character effortlessly has the knack of letting go of his past and enter into a new phase of openness and self -realisation.

Merle’s daughter Abigail Abrahams, played by the enormously talented Tracey-Lee Rose, has just been proposed to by her long-time boyfriend Alan White, a wonderful performance by Paul Du Toit. Abigail and Alan come from different spectrums of life, and with the usual stereotypes of mixed marriages and social standing long forgotten, there is not an inch of doubt that these two are destined to be together.

Alan’s wealthy family from Bantry Bay together with the Abrahams clan are both welcoming of each other even though their opinion and ideals are disagreeable at times. The fast-paced scenes with Merle and Claire bantering over wedding plans together with Dennis and David’s interaction is a joy to watch creating a very interesting family dynamic.

Gina Shmukler and Adrian Galley give a wonderful charm to Claire and David White, Alan’s parents. Claire can’t wait to have ’exotic’ grandchildren however makes it perfectly clear that they are not allowed to call her ‘Ouma’! No story is complete without its resident villain who just so happens to be Abigails Ex, Denver, and a slimy and slippery character brought to life by Loukmaan Adams whose shared secret with Abigail he threatens to leak.

Directed by Lara Foot with music written by Marc Lottering and Tarryn Lamb, this wonderfully diverse musical in essence is all about acceptance and understanding and most importantly how we embrace it. Together with a phenomenal 7 piece band on stage don’t miss this proudly South African experience!

Aunty Merle The Musical will be running at the Joburg theatre until Sunday the 3rd of March 2019.

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