Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
Review: AUNTY MERLE: THINGS GET REAL at the Baxter Theatre Centre Is Destined to be Another Smash Hit

Review: AUNTY MERLE: THINGS GET REAL at the Baxter Theatre Centre Is Destined to be Another Smash Hit

This masterpiece of a musical runs from 29 November 2022 until 21 January 2023.

My family and I have been avid fans of the AUNTY MERLE musicals since the first of the three productions graced the Baxter stage in 2017. When AUNTY MERLE: IT'S A GIRL came out in 2019, my brother and I adored it so much that we saw it twice. So, when I heard that there was a third instalment in this musical series, I just about danced my way to Belgravia Road.

AUNTY MERLE: THINGS GET REAL is the show that the country needs - especially at this moment in time. We as South Africans know that when things get tough, sometimes there really is nothing left to do but laugh. So overwhelmed are we with collective trauma from the COVID-19 pandemic, our Eskom situation, corruption and global political tensions that I forgot how stressed I was until Marc Lottering sashayed onto stage as Aunty Merle and kicked out her heels in that distinctly Merle way that I could join the other theatregoers in finally exhaling and releasing all the tension through our chuckles, giggles, guffaws, howls, snickers, cackles, roars and chortles. Because if you go and see this show, that is precisely what will happen: you will laugh until you cannot laugh anymore. It is a deeply therapeutic experience. Lara Foot, in her director's note, calls this production a 'comedy of healing' - how right she is.

Review: AUNTY MERLE: THINGS GET REAL at the Baxter Theatre Centre Is Destined to be Another Smash Hit This production is a must-see - it is that simple. The cast of nine is strong and, as always for an AUNTY MERLE show, it is very much an ensemble work. Many of my favourite performers from the previous musicals return to the stage but, often, as different characters this time around. I was a little confused about this at first (particularly with Loukmaan Adams who played nogoodnik Denver in the previous two musicals and who now plays good-guy Benny). Similarly, Merle's sassy best friend Soraya is now played by Jawaahier Petersen instead of by Carmen Maarman. The latter is, however, still in the show and now plays Merle's sister Moira. I must admit that I missed Maarman as Soraya simply because I have come to associate her with that character. However, she is excellent as fiery Moira and Petersen does a brilliant job of making Soraya her own. Crystal Finck, Tankiso Mamabolo and Anzio September also return but in different roles to those they played in the previous AUNTY MERLE musicals. Mamambolo's voice is, as always, a highlight - I adore watching her - and Royston Stoffels is delightful in his reprisal of Dennis.

Review: AUNTY MERLE: THINGS GET REAL at the Baxter Theatre Centre Is Destined to be Another Smash Hit

While this musical left me in stitches, it would be inaccurate to describe it as 'lightweight'. Lottering's musical numbers and book tackle heart-breaking social issues such as drug addiction, how society so often ignores the plight of those who live in poverty, and the emotional and financial toll of COVID-19. Indeed, while there are a good few emotional ballads that tug at the heartstrings, all of which are beautiful, the one that most stands out is 'What about the People?' performed by Anzio September who plays Zane, Soraya's nephew. September is a powerhouse and both his vocal range and his conviction as a voice for the voiceless make this song a showstopper. What renders this performance even more hard-hitting is the dancing of Shaun Oelf (lead dancer), choreographed by Grant Van Ster. Oelf's movement and September's voice combine to create a piece that had many shedding tears, myself included. 'I Remember Her' performed by Madeegha Anders (as Soraya's sister, Jessie) is also poignant and powerful, made even more so by the movement of Crystal Finck.

Review: AUNTY MERLE: THINGS GET REAL at the Baxter Theatre Centre Is Destined to be Another Smash Hit

As always, the live band is dynamic and keeps the energy pumping and there is no weak link in the cast - everyone shines. However, it cannot be denied that Lottering as Merle is the brightest jewel onstage. Lottering's ability to get the audience roaring with the slightest extension of a limb, tensing of the jaw or flick of the head is extraordinary. Lottering is Merle and every time he is on stage one cannot help but be utterly entranced. Lottering's talent is staggering - having written the music, lyrics and book for this musical and stealing every scene in which he appears as Merle.

While I loved this production from start to finish, my highlights include a scene that takes place during loadshedding. Without spoilers, Lottering's ability to create such comedy with only a torch is surely unprecedented. I am still chuckling at the thought of another scene involving Lottering and a kitchen cupboard. The only gripe I have is that, since the audience spends so much time laughing at the genius being created onstage, the actors sometimes begin their next lines before theatregoers had stopped roaring. This combined with one or two microphone issues meant that lines were sometimes missed by the audience.

Review: AUNTY MERLE: THINGS GET REAL at the Baxter Theatre Centre Is Destined to be Another Smash Hit

From Patrick Curtis' set design which seamlessly takes us to destinations all over Cape Town, to Grant Van Ster's powerful and creative choreography, to Trevino Isaac's superb musical direction, AUNTY MERLE: THINGS GET REAL is destined to wow South African audiences just as much as, if not more than, its predecessors. Lara Foot has deftly directed this masterpiece and Anwar Mc Kay as producer can be proud of this fantastic contribution to South African theatre.

See AUNTY MERLE: THINGS GET REAL to be reminded of what South Africans have and continue to overcome and to remind yourself that, through it all, we must continue to laugh - to heal ourselves and to analyse our society through a critical lens. The Queen of Belgravia Road dazzles in this musical and I urge the public to behold this collection of jewels onstage while able. If the events of the last few years have taught us anything, it is to experience things while we can - and for this experience, you will be all the richer.

Photo credit: Mark Wessels.

AUNTY MERLE: THINGS GET REAL runs from 29 November 2022 to 21 January 2023 at the Pam Golding Theatre at the Baxter Theatre Centre. Ticket prices range from R180 to R260 and can be purchased through Webtickets.



THE BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN EXPERIENCE Comes to The Drama Factory This Month Photo
The Bruce Springsteen Experience consists of five professional and talented Cape Town musicians, who recently came together as one band, performing The Boss' greatest hits. Expect all Bruce Springsteen's greatest hits, packaged into one epic live performance. This show pays tribute not only to The Boss' music, but also to his legendary stage performances.

Review: THE GRASS WIDOW Ensnares and Entertains at The Baxter Theatre Photo
Watching THE GRASS WIDOW at the Masambe Theatre feels like visiting a well-kept secret. Sitting in the intimate auditorium, elbow-to-elbow with other audience members, the anticipation is palpable for Louis Viljoen's latest production.

MASTER CLASS Comes to Theatre on the Bay Beginning This Month Photo
From 20 February to 11 March 2023, Pieter Toerien in association with Cape Town Opera (CTO) will present MASTER CLASS at Theatre on the Bay, a riveting play written by the late American playwright, librettist and five-time Tony Award winner Terrence McNally (Kiss of the Spider Woman, Love!Valour!Compassion!, Ragtime, The Lisbon Traviata). 

Applications Now Open For The 2023 Womens Month Festival At The Drama Factory Photo
The Drama Factory and F Creations have announced the second running of their Women's Month Festival, taking place 7-20 August 2023.


From This Author - Jaime Uranovsky

Jaime is a creative who hails from Cape Town, South Africa. She completed her BA in English and psychology in 2015 and her honours in English Literature the following year, both at the University o... (read more about this author)


Interview: Gerard Van Rooyen And Léa Blerk of COME TOGETHER at Theatre On The BayInterview: Gerard Van Rooyen And Léa Blerk of COME TOGETHER at Theatre On The Bay
January 25, 2023

COME TOGETHER, a Beatles-inspired dance production presented by LAMTA, enjoyed a sold out run at the Theatre on the Bay in June last year. Since then, the show travelled to Johannesburg for a November 2022 season and now, it returns to the Mother City.

Review: CALL ME A FOOL at Studio 3, LAMTA Captures First Love with Earnestness, Comedy and DepthReview: CALL ME A FOOL at Studio 3, LAMTA Captures First Love with Earnestness, Comedy and Depth
December 19, 2022

Theatre allows us to escape but it also allows us to recognise parts of ourselves and our (often universal) experiences mirrored in a work – which in turn makes us feel validated and seen. This fresh, new musical does just that. CALL ME A FOOL centres around two twenty-something year old women navigating their first serious relationship.

Review: SLEEPING BEAUTY at the Masque Theatre Is a Vibrant and Energetic Retelling of the Classic StoryReview: SLEEPING BEAUTY at the Masque Theatre Is a Vibrant and Energetic Retelling of the Classic Story
December 13, 2022

In all honestly, I have never been a fan of the story of SLEEPING BEAUTY. The 1959 Disney film put me off and none of the recent Maleficent-centred adaptations tempted me. But writer and director, Faeron Wheeler’s fresh, 21st-Century take on SLEEPING BEAUTY is nothing like these… and it is great! Read on for why.

Review: THE NUTCRACKER at Artscape Opera House Is an Enchanting, Top-Class ProductionReview: THE NUTCRACKER at Artscape Opera House Is an Enchanting, Top-Class Production
December 12, 2022

THE NUTCRACKER, one of the world’s most celebrated ballets, needs little introduction. As a Christmas-time favourite, it has come to be synonymous with the festive season. Now, on the 130th anniversary of the original production’s premier, producer Veronica Paeper and Cape Town City Ballet deliver an exquisite, magical rendition that cannot be

Review: AUNTY MERLE: THINGS GET REAL at the Baxter Theatre Centre Is Destined to be Another Smash HitReview: AUNTY MERLE: THINGS GET REAL at the Baxter Theatre Centre Is Destined to be Another Smash Hit
December 7, 2022

My family and I have been avid fans of the AUNTY MERLE musicals since the first of the three productions graced the Baxter stage in 2017. When AUNTY MERLE: IT’S A GIRL came out in 2019, my brother and I adored it so much that we saw it twice. So, when I heard that there was a third instalment in this musical series, I just about danced my way to