Marc Lottering is bringing his most beloved character, Aunty Merle Abrahams, to the stage in the musical comedy, Aunty Merle, The Musical.
Cape Town audiences have been well acquainted with the character of Merle, a housewife from Belgravia Road in Athlone, for many years.
In the musical, drama unfolds as Merle’s daughter Abigail (Tarryn Lamb) announces her engagement to Alan (Stephen Jubber). As Merle puts it: “He’s a good-looking white chap.”
But, it’s never smooth-sailing in the world of musicals.
Abigail’s twisted and corrupt ex, Denver Paulse (Loukmaan Adams), who holds a dodgy top job with the SABC, is determined to get her back.
If not, he threatens to reveal a very dark secret which is bound to tear the lovers apart.
The musical promises high drama, entertainment and laughs-a-minute, said Lottering and of course, a greater insight into the life and loves of Aunty Merle.
“She is very proud of the fact that she is doing very well. I think all the Lottering fans have followed her for about 19 years, so people have a good idea as to who she is. She lives in a free-standing house and her husband has his own business. She is a God-fearing lady, who only means good for everyone,” Lottering said.
The character of Merle is largely based on his mother and his childhood memories.
“A lot of it comes from my mom and eavesdropping on conversations of her and her friends and their prayer meetings where they would, after prayers, discuss what is going on in the neighbourhood with divorced women in the road who are not employed, and who walk around chatting to other women’s husbands. I brought a lot of that stuff to stage.”
The musical features 14 actors and a live band and promises to take audiences on a terrific nostalgic and comedic trip.
The script, which was written by Lottering, also touches on themes such as blessers, complex love affairs and boys who are obsessed with Beyonce.
“When it comes to the themes of the show, even in my one-man shows, it’s not enough to just tell a joke. You have to have different layers to whatever you present to people and you also can’t avoid reality, even in the world of comedy you can’t be in la la land; people have to know that you are in touch with issues.
“Because it’s a musical, everybody has to live happily ever after and bad people have to feel bad. You know how it’s going to end and that hearts are going to be broken but hearts have to be mended as well.
“So the themes that I have touched on, you try to draw from people you know and a little bit from my upbringing as well. So it’s going to be interesting when you see Aunty Merle’s sons who like Beyonce and you have other issues as to why relations don’t work,” he said.
The musical is directed by Lara Foot, with Alistair Izobell serving as musical director and Grant van Ster as choreographer.
“When I told my friends I’d be working with Lara Foot, people in the industry just warmly hugged me and said: ‘Oh my word you are not going to survive this. She is very tough.’ I think I charmed her hair down to shoulder length. We have a good relationship. She knows a bit of how my brain works,” said Lottering.
“The music is beautiful, obviously, because I wrote it. I co-wrote the music with Tarryn Lamb, who is one of the leads in the show. Tarryn and I have been friends for years. She is a phenomenal songwriter and singer. The music has a contemporary ring to it, but stylistically there are a few different styles of music in the show as well and I believe it’s going to be impossible to walk out and not enjoy what you have heard.”
Aunty Merle: The Musical will run from November 30 to January 13 at the Baxter Theatre.