Review: Fabulous! Aunty Merle – Things Get Real– is a comic and musical triumph- miracles and wonders – dished up by Marc Lottering for the festive season

Aunty Merle – Things Get Real

When: November 29, 2022 to January 21 2023 at 7.30 nightly with Saturday matinees
Where:  Baxter Pam Golding Theatre
Writer: Marc Lottering
Director: Lara Foot
Music and lyrics: Marc Lottering
Tickets: Webtickets at or at Pick n Pay stores

Scroll down for other creative credits and cast

I loved Marc Lottering’s Aunty Merle – Things Get Realthe third edition in the Aunty Merle comedy-musicals. One doesn’t need to have seen the previous shows. Fabulous! Aunty Merle – Things Get Real– is a comic and musical triumph.  Bravo to Lottering, director Lara Foot, creative team and cast, in creating this epic scale musical.

I saw the 2nd edition, Aunty Merle – It’s A Girl! in November 2019. We had no inkling of what was to arrive with the Covid pandemic. It’s A Girl was scheduled to run until the end of February 2020. It was one of the last shows on, before lockdown clicked in. I felt very emotional watching Aunty Merle – Things Get Real. I am not sure whether to tag Aunty Merle musicals as musical-comedy or comedy-musical? It is in a category of its own.

Marc Lottering wrote Things Get Real, in lockdown and the reality of the crushing impact of the pandemic is conveyed vividly as we see Aunty Merle and hubby Dennis, dealing with their altered reality.  Plot spoiler alert- it gets “real”. There are some tear jerking moments but all ends well. We must not lose faith – even when days are dark. We need that – that it will all be okay.  This show is an upper – a tonic. As always, the writing is terrific. I am talking about the dialogue – the book – in musical theatre jargon. Lottering’s writing is on pulse – such as Aunt Merle’s mashing of pronouns. It is hilarious to see how Aunty Merle muddles her way through with verbal gymnastics – but always with deep respect and care. She is the queen of malapropos and this is deliciously teased out in this show.

As with the other iterations in the Aunty Merle musicals, Lottering has also written the music. And he takes on the leading role of Aunty Merle. I have remarked in the past that he is brilliant and I say that again – in doing it all.

Talking of emotional, for me with, Things Get Real, Aunty Merle the Musical has taken the series into another orbit– with an emotional core to the narrative – which is deeper than the first two editions. Everything has been heightened and developed. The music and musical arrangements are on another level -consummate musical direction by Trevino Isaacs.

The narrative arc of Things Get Real has shifted dramatically from the first two musicals. Lottering has retained some actors from previous editions and brought in new cast members. He has shuffled actors around. Aunty Merle veteran Carmen Maarman (Soraya, the neighbour of Aunty Merle,  in previous editions) is a revelation as she manifests on stage as Aunty Merle’s sister, Moira who lives in Perth, Australia, where as Aunty Merle quips,  they have “accents and electricity”. Love it. Moira was previously an unseen character. In the first two editions, we saw Aunty Merle sitting on the stairs and kvetching to her sister, via WhatsApp. In Things Get Real, Moira is back in her home town as the drama unfolds in the Athlone home of Aunty Merle and devoted husband, Dennis. Royston Stoffels reprises his role as Dennis, with that wonderful mellifluous chocolatey voice.

Soraya – the neighbour of Aunty Merle and Breyani queen – is played beautifully by Jawaahier Petersen. It is magic to see her on stage, performing with her mother Madeegha Anders who plays the sad Jessie – with tenderness and pathos. Anders is a veteran of Cape Town musical theatre and it is a treat to see her on stage in this musical.

Loukmaan Adams and Tankiso Mamabolo conjure up a delicious portrait as a well-heeled couple from Joburg, Benny and Ayanda. The nostalgic Benny yearns for his childhood of gatsbys (a Cape Town food, if you are from out of town) and fun in Athlone. Ayanda wants to live in a house with a view of the ocean and dine on sushi. To see Adams and Mamabolo on stage together- is a wow – with their vocal and comedic smarts. Their coupling reverberates in multiple directions. As always Lottering brings in his keen satirical eye to his material. Mamabolo also takes on the role of the doctor. She is breathtaking in both roles- doctor-doctor and as Ayanda. Adams is the vocal coach for this production and has done the additional vocal arrangements.

Crystal Finck is Mandy, the sassy estate agent and she can sing and dance (watch at the end). The scenes between Mandy and Aunty Merle are a tour de force on the comedy laugh meter and I cannot say more as I will plot spoil. Anzio September evokes the complexities of his character, Zayne, who is conflicted by the responsibility that he carries. A lovely nuanced performance by September- holding it together in the hilarity of Aunty Merle’s house. This is the reality check of South Africa – the dark, dark side of the mess that we are in as a society –substance abuse, loadshedding and all the challenges we are facing. Mannie Manim is lighting designer and his lighting plot for the loadshedding scene is striking – visually and metaphorically. The light strikes through, blindingly so and we laugh as we must.

Lottering as satirist, does not shy away from reality but at the same time, he has us laughing and being entertained. Aunty Merle – Things Get Real– is a must-see. A huge bravo to Anwar Mc Kay: The Producer and again to Lara Foot: The Director. One can imagine the logistics of putting this epic musical together.

Soulmates: Aunty Merle (Marc Lottering) and Dennis, her husband (Royston Stoffels) – in the loadshedding scene in Aunty Merle – Things Get Real. Lighting design by award winning Mannie Manim. FDR Pic © Mark Wessels. Supplied.
Aunty Merle – Things Get Real

When: November 29, 2022 to January 21 2023  in the Baxter Pam Golding Theatre

Creative team

Writer: Marc Lottering
Director: Lara Foot
Music and lyrics: Marc Lottering
Musical director: Trevino Isaacs
Producer: Anwar Mc Kay
Choreographer: Grant van Ster (Figure of 8 Dance Collective)
Set design: Patrick Curtis
Lighting design: Mannie Manim
Costume design: Jeanne Maritz
Vocal coach and additional vocal arrangements: Loukmaan Adams
Admin producer: Libie Nel
AV Designer: Rebecca Newton

Cast includes

Marc Lottering, Royston Stoffels, Loukmaan Adams, Madeegha Anders, Tankiso Mamabolo, Carmen Maarman, Jawaahier Petersen, Anzio September, Crystal Finck and Shaun Oelf (lead dancer)


Keith de Bruyn (drums), Lee Ludolph (lead guitar), Jed Petersen (sax), Craig Potgieter (bass guotar), Yvan Potts (1st keyboard) and Daniel Titus (2nd keyboard)

Dancing Aunty Merle: Not only does the cast sing and deliver knockout performances in Aunty Merle – Things Get Real– but they also dance – with a troupe of dancers, led by Shaun Oelf. Choreography by Grant van Ster (Figure of 8 Dance Collective). FDR Pic © Mark Wessels. Supplied.

Aunty Merle – Things Get Real- FDR images © Mark Wessels – supplied.