Stuart King

First Look: KATHY AND STELLA SOLVE A MURDER! at Ambassadors Theatre

Along with other relatively small cast musicals (like the hugely successful Operation Mincemeat currently playing at the Fortune Theatre) KATHY AND STELLA SOLVE A MURDER relies upon sharply choreographed moves and costume changes to ensure that the non-stop cultural reference gags land with a slick and zingy pizzazz. Thankfully the casting team managed to match Bronté Barbé and Rebekah Hinds — a pair of supremely talented performers who manage effortlessly to lift even the kitschiest tongue-in-cheek and colloquially corny moments. This is a small show which definitely punches way above its weight.

Bronté Barbé (Kathy) and Rebekah Hinds (Stella) in Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder at Ambassadors Theatre -Pamela Raith PhotographyBronté Barbé (Kathy) and Rebekah Hinds (Stella) in Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder at Ambassadors Theatre -Pamela Raith Photography

Developed, directed and choreographed by the creative team of John Brittain, Matthew Lloyd Jones, and Fabian Aloise, the comedy musical involves the exploits of a pair of Hull-based, pod-casting, amateur murder sleuths. It is unashamedly strong on female characters with the two leads in particular, possessing the sort of tonal harmonics which only a very few shows can boast. Ably supported by Hannah-Jane Fox, Elliot Broadfoot, Elliotte Williams-N’Dure, Imelda Warren-Green and Ben Redfern the entire cast taps into a uniquely British seam of sophisticated daftness.

The near-constant stream of irreverence which will prove especially appealing to more recent converts to theatregoing, provides a sharp and funny social commentary, delivered with knowing playfulness. In particular, police ineptitude comes in for some brutal lampooning as the pair deliver the plethora of visual and verbal gags realised through superb comedy timing and slick transitional choreography.

A small 4-piece band (under the stewardship of Andrew Hilton) occupies elevated on-stage positions either side of the main playing area and accompanies the superbly energised cast throughout.

Sadly, due to a backstage flood on the official opening night, the performance had to be abandoned at the interval, but as a taster, what this reviewer witnessed up until that point, was a hugely fun whodunnit and he cannot wait to return to discover what zaniness awaits in the second half of the production.