Stuart King

Review: KATHY AND STELLA SOLVE A MURDER at Ambassadors Theatre

In common with other relatively small cast London musicals (like the hugely successful Operation Mincemeat which continues to enjoy its extended run at the Fortune Theatre), KATHY AND STELLA SOLVE A MURDER relies upon sharply choreographed moves and costume changes to ensure the non-stop cultural reference gags land with pizzazz. Thankfully, in bringing together Bronté Barbé and Rebekah Hinds — a pair of supremely talented performers who manage effortlessly to lift even the kitschest tongue-in-cheek and colloquially corny moments — the producers have hit comedy gold.

The Cast of Kathy & Stella Solve A Murder! Pamela Raith PhotographyThe Cast of Kathy & Stella Solve A Murder! 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 madcap exploits of a pair of otherwise underachieving, pod-casters who style themselves amateur murder sleuths. The show is unashamedly strong on female characters with the two leads in particular, possessing the sort of tonal harmonics which lift any material. Ably supported by Hannah-Jane Fox, Elliot Broadfoot, Elliotte Williams-N’Dure, Imelda Warren-Green and Ben Redfern the cast taps into a uniquely British seam of sophisticated daftness, fed by neatly crafted and humorously contrived lyrics. The result, is a near-constant stream of irreverence which will prove especially appealing to more recent converts to theatregoing. The sharp and funny social commentary, zeroes-in on its targets with a knowing playfulness throughout. Police ineptitude and the cult of celebrity in the media age are singled-out for brutal lampooning, along with the city of Manchester (for being on the wrong side of the Pennines), as the cast deliver a plethora of visual and verbal gags and characters to go with them, all realised through superb comedy timing and slick transitional choreography.

Under the stewardship of Andrew Hilton, the 4-piece band shoe-horned onto elevated positions either side of the stage, never flags and matches the cast’s energy throughout. Honourable mention must also go to Cecilia Carey for squeezing an ambitiously cluttered and prop-heavy set into one of London’s smallest and largely subterranean theatres. For a show which frequently references Beverley near Hull, this production punches significantly above its weight and thoroughly deserves its place in the West End.