Reviews Roundup: Kathy And Stella Solve A Murder!

Two female actors sit together chatting in front of a microphone in a scene from the musical comedy Kathy And Stella Solve A Murder
Bronté Barbé and Rebekah Hinds in Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder! Photo: Pamela Raith

Kathy And Stella Solve A Murder! is the latest British musical comedy to make the trip from the fringe to the West End. It follows in the footsteps of Six, Operation Mincemeat, Two Strangers and more. We seem to be in a Golden Age for the small homegrown musical, so much so they’ll soon have to form an orderly queue for a central; London venue.
In this musical by Jon Brittain and Matthew Floyd Jones, Kathy and Stella, who produce a weekly crime podcast, investigate an actual murder, but the show is as much about friendship as whodunnit. Unfortunately, the press night was cancelled after a flood and some major media have yet to offer an opinion. (Of course, the Guardian may simply be following its intermittent policy of not reviewing West End transfers.) It has been well received by nearly all those who have managed to see it. Bronté Barbé and Rebekah Hinds who play the eponymous investigators are praised, as are the rest of the cast. Opinion on the quality of the music is divided.

[Links to full reviews are included but a number are behind paywalls and therefore may not be accessible]

For Alice Cope at Broadway World (5) ‘this show is a delight. The murder mystery story is largely told through the catchy and well crafted musical numbers…Every line is intended to not only entertain but also effectively drive the plot forward and develop the characters.’ She noted, ‘Bronté Barbé and Rebekah Hinds…have terrific chemistry’.

Alex Wood at WhatsOnStage (4★) discovered ‘a juicy, but never burdensome, through-line about the ways in which gender, true crime and online communities can intersect.’ He declared, ‘The second half is about as pacy and as raucous as they come.’ He loved the ‘sublime central performances’ and concluded, ‘All in all, it amounts to a killer addition to the musical pantheon.’

Radio Times’ reviewer Olivia Garrett (4★) shared his enthusiasm: ‘The show pumps out macabre gags and earthy one-liners like there’s no tomorrow.’ ‘The songs are definitely catchy,’ she assured us. As for the stars, ‘Barbé is excellent as the intelligent but anxious Kathy…Hinds matches her in every way as the belligerent Stella.’ Here’s the big climax: ‘Overall, Kathy and Stella is fresh, funny and comes with many layers to slice into. Whether you’re a fan of musicals or not, it’s bloody good fun.’

Marianka Swain writing for London Theatre (4★) loved it: ‘The show is buoyantly funny, teeming with macabre gags and Victoria Wood-esque specific one-liners, the pop-infused songs are instantly catchy…and there are narrative twists a-plenty.’

Andrzej Lukowski at Time Out (4★) was almost as excited, saying it ‘ingeniously yokes the breathlessness of the true crime podcast genre to the big emotions of a musical.’ He praised the ‘whip-sharp book and lyrics’ and said it was ‘abundantly creative, funny and musically dextrous’. Holly O’Mahony writing for The Stage (4★) called it ‘a knowingly silly, slyly funny story’.

Dominic Maxwell in the Sunday Times (3★) enjoyed the ‘energetic and inventive’ show. However, ‘The songs by Matthew Floyd Jones are jaunty and deft, but rarely memorable and ‘The show has an opinion on the appeal of true crime and podcasts, but chooses not to delve deep on such issues.’

Only Nick Curtis of the Standard (2★) went away unimpressed, complaining that it ‘asks you to laugh along with its ridiculous storyline, feckless lead characters and bland, belted-out score.’ He found ‘the constant barrage of gurning and caterwauling is a major turn-off.’ And concluded, it ‘left me dead inside.’

This is what Clare Brennan had to say in The Guardian (4★) about the show’s earlier run in Manchester: ‘A cracking cast plays the positives with gusto, swiftly seguing set and mood changes, delivering power ballads and comic routines with physical and musical dexterity.’

Average critics’ rating 3.8★
Value Rating 47 (Value rating is the Average Critic Rating divided by the typical ticket price.)

Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder! is at the Ambassador’s Theatre until 14 September 2024.  Buy tickets direct from kathyandstella.com

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