This review was posted on TheCapeRobyn facebook page as the website was not up and running. The post reached over 25 thousand people. There is still time to see this BRILLIANT production.

Aunty Merle- It’s A Girl!- review

⭐ ⭐⭐⭐⭐


Writer/book: Marc Lottering

Music and lyrics: Marc Lottering

Director: Lara Foot

Musical direction: Trevino Isaacs

Producer: Anwar Mc Kay

Choreography: Grant Van Ster

Vocal coach and additional vocal arrangements: Loukmaan Adams

Cast: includes Marc Lottering, Royston Stoffels, Jennifer Steyn, Nicky Rebelo, Carmen Maarman, Zoleka Helesi, Rushney Ferguson, Tashreeq de Villiers, Sizwesandile Mnisi, Anzio Kevin September, Crystal Finck and Rori Bingham.

Set design: Patrick Curtis

Lighting design: Mannie Manim

Video design: Kirsti Cumming

Sound design: David Classen

Tickets: R125-R225 and R290

Book: Webtickets

Detailed ticket info at end of this post.

Marc Lottering is beyond brilliant.

Lottering’s Aunty Merle – It’s A Girl! is a brilliantly funny, poignant and immensely entertaining musical. Lottering has not only written the script (book) but also written the music and lyrics. The concept is brilliant; set, design, costumes, dance – all brilliant. Breathtaking. I am sorry to be repeatedly using the B word – brilliant and breathtaking – but words cannot convey how I felt walking out of watching this new musical.

I am beyond, gobsmacked. Okay, there is a G-word. The design (set, lighting, sound, costumes etc), dance, direction is a master class in musical theatre. It is astounding that one person has created all this. Each song is outstanding. It is not an easy gig to cook up a new musical. In newly hatched musicals – we inevitably sing along but the words are utterly forgettable. Think back to a newish musical – I am not talking about a Cabaret, Chicago, Rocky Horror or Sound of Music. I am talking about musicals of the last decade or so. Try and remember one song from a newish musical and? Zilch. That is why we get revivals of classics like Rocky Horror and Evita. They hit home on multiple levels – words, music, images. To produce a large scale musical in South Africa is challenging on all fronts – with limited funding and support. 

For its production of Matilda, The Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC), enlisted a writing and composing team to collaborate on book and music. Lottering is a one person outfit. Sure, Lottering is backed up by a brilliant (there is the B word again) creative team (design, brilliant direction by Lara Foot, choreography by Grant van Ster, stunning light plot by Mannie Manim; virtuoso on-stage band etc) but the armature- music, lyrics book of the musical is his creation.

To top all that, Lottering delivers a superlative performance as Aunty Merle Abrahams – with her skinny legs flaying about, arms flapping, and unflappable demeanor. I raved about the first edition Aunty Merle, The Musical – but with Aunty Merle – It’s A Girl!– Lottering has taken it to another level of excellence.

Regarding the first edition – Aunty Merle, The Musical – I wrote: “This is comedy and a musical which is in a category of its own. I don’t know of another musical which taps into contemporary life in South Africa and pulls us in to gaze and laugh at ourselves now – with music.” The same holds for Aunty Merle – It’s A Girl! The leitmotif of the musical is #loveislove. 

Love transcends all. Love can and should conquer discontent, disappointment, pre-conceived ideas of what family and relationships may constitute. Aunty Merle – It’s A Girl! is a celebration of family; identity; being proud and a celebration of appreciating who we are and how we can become happier individuals and let go – disconnect – and connect. It is not soppy or moralistic or heavy-handed. There may be condensed milk in the melktert but there is a sting of mirth always to undercut the sweetness in this gritty, witty; dark in places and shrieking funny musical.

As for the plot, Aunty Merle -It’s A Girl!, picks up five years after Aunty Merle’s daughter, Abigail (Rushney Ferguson) tied the knot with Alan White (Julian Place)  from Bantry Bay. There is an announcement in the first half. I cannot give the frikkadel away and tell you what happens. At interval, one is left with a cliff-hanger. What is going to happen? How will it end? Lottering has brilliantly (the B-word again) plotted out a narrative packed with surprises. Again, many new musicals fall flat in terms of story line. Aunty Merle – It’s A Girl, delivers a cracker of a story line.

Aunty Merle- It’s A Girl! is tagged as sequel but it works as stand-alone musical. There is a different villain. Satellite plots have been added. Characters have been developed with each backstory taking on urgency and vooma. Lottering has not simply rehashed the characters, since Alan and Abigail got hitched.  The action has been amped up.

There are numerous cast changes: Nicky Rebelo and Jennifer Steyn are (real life married couple) Mr and Mrs White and bring their considerable acting smarts to shape the parentals who have issues of their own. Royston Stoffels with his chocolatey voice reprises his role as the ever dependable Dennis who is more than a match for Merle. His charisma and presence is heightened even more in this production.  

The delightful Carmen Maarman is back as the delicious Soraya – the bestie and neighbour of Merle. The energy between Merle and Soraya is off the charts. There is a scene in Kalk Bay – and no, this doesn’t plot spoil – where they interact with a busker. The bossy duo of Merle and Soraya instruct him to give them change for their ten rand. As my plus-one remarked: Priceless. Terrific physical comedy here as they cavort across a bench.  We see physical comedy – clowning and slapstick – throughout the musical – with Lottering in fine form as he brings out the physical nuances and quirks of Aunty Merle. The physical comedy interfaces brilliantly (the B word again,) with Merle’s  lines and malapropisms – her intentional mangling of language. Zoleka Helesi is fabulous as the yummy-mummy with her toy boy in hand. Love it!

In addition to the enthralling story line, singing, dancing, we also get snapshots of Cape Town as Lottering images city spots – like Kalk Bay and the gardens in Claremont (Arderne Gardens – by the way – this garden project initiated in 1845 by Ralph Henry Arderne, a timber merchant who hailed from Cheshire in England.)

Drawing from his work as a stand-up comic, Lottering makes sure to insert current events into the narrative – the Rugby World Cup, references to the ubiquitous hastag I’m Staying but it never veers into stand up. This is musical-comedy theatre- not a series of stand up sets mashed together. The first Aunt Merle was not that and the 2nd edition is even more – a superb piece of musical theatre. 

Aunty Merle – It’s A Girl! is mandatory Festive Season viewing. See it and then book to go again. Yes, it is that good. 

Bravo to the BRILLIANT Marc Lottering, producer, Anwar Mc Kay; to the Baxter and director Lara Foot; creatives and actors. It is brilliant musical theatre which is brimming in comedy.

Photo credit: Lindsey Appolis.

Theatre/ ✈ travel advisory: Aunty Merle- It’s A Girl!

Venue: Baxter Theatre Centre

Main Road, Rondebosch, Cape Town, 7700

http://www.baxter.co.za/

Wheelchair access: yes.

Booking info Aunty Merle- It’s A Girl!

Dates: November 22, 2019 to February 29, 2020. 

Tickets: R125 to R225.

Please note that Webtickets is the authorised and official ticket seller:

Webtickets online:  https://www.webtickets.co.za or https://

tinyurl.com/y5pngonh

Baxter Theatre Centre: http://www.baxter.co.za/ 


Baxter Box Office, Main Road, Rondebosch, Cape Town, call 067 070 6855 / 021 685 7880 and Pick n Pay stores.

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