Stage: Family Business – Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, Durban until April 23
REVIEW BY BILLY SUTER
A TOWERING Dolly Parton wig, a giant grey alien, a boot on the end of a pole, a wheelchair, a wheelbarrow, sacks, a nun. Not forgetting tap and Celtic dancing… Welcome to the latest colourful lucky dip from the McIlroy clan – otherwise known as the Karsdashians of Durban, says family matriarch Lisa Bobbert McIlroy, with her tongue very firmly in her cheek.
Lisa is teamed for Family Business with her comic kingpin of a husband, the irrepressible Aaron McIlroy – “You just have to look at him and you laugh,” she says – and this time they also rope in all three of their young-adult daughters (Kaylee, Fiona and Grace). Even son Declan is in on the act, working the follow spot.
The result is what fans have come to expect and relish – a merry mash-up of pop and comedy songs, dance, send-up and riotous silliness that has audience members leaving the theatre with a wide smile.
Directed by Darren King, with choreography by him and Daisy Spencer, the show is part variety show, part reflection on the family, and part homage to Lisa and Aaron’s previous stage successes, along with injections of things new.
The fun unwinds on a stage of three sets of raised, tiered platforms and opens with Lisa and her girls performing Pink’s Get The Party Started. Thereafter, it’s a bit of a free for all as the cast morphs between sketches and musical moments.
Of course, many of the McIlroy staple characters, all audience favourites, make an appearance – among them shrill-voiced and too-mature-for-cutesy Charmaine, alongside her henpecked hubby Bruce.
We also get Aaron’s somewhat dim surfer dude, Gary from the Bluff, in a familiar routine – chatting about his mother’s horrid new boyfriend, Leon, and, accompanying himself on guitar for amusing lyrical spins on Postman Pat and Living Next Door to Alice.
And no Aaron show would be complete without his popular, fast-talking Indian charmer, VJ, who steals the thunder in the superior second half with random chat about TV presenters and golf. All the time he is in his trademark black wig, this time with a green tracksuit (he tells us he decided to ‘go green’ as a New Year’s resolution). As usual, he is great fun and here, at times, almost unintentionally resembles a quirky variation of the more mature Cliff Richard, which added extra laughs for me and friends.
My favourite in this show is his cocky, no-nonsense character discussing aliens and an assortment of other things. A nod to Lisa and Aaron’s Defending the Planet hit of some years back, the sketch takes many sidesteps as Aaron improvises a lot, as only he can, to chat to and take the mickey out of audience members. Aaron’s quick wit – and courage – here is a joy to behold.
The show has a good mix of musical numbers, Lisa at her best with a Tina Turner routine (backed by her daughters) and also alongside Aaron in an Irish-themed sequence which has them performing a comical song related to a drink-loving man and a wife who convinces him he is seeing things.
Attractive and talented Kaylee, Fiona and Grace, in a parade of fetching costumes, contribute a lot to the show, albeit having appeared a little uneasy in the earlier part of the production on opening night. But they settled in quick enough and were on good form in the second half, particularly with renditions of The Corrs’ Runaway and Postmodern Jukebox’s version of Lady Gaga’s Poker Face.
Also featuring such songs as Here Comes The Hotstepper, Toxic, When You Were Sweet 16 and medleys associated with Dolly Parton, Abba and South African music stars, Family Business may not be among the McIlroys’ very best offerings, but is certainly a sure bet for a pick-me-up. It runs until April 23 and booking is at Computicket.