Review by Kate Gaul
“Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder!” currently playing a second year at the Edinburgh Fringe. I’m and Agatha Christie lover and an occasional obsessive when it comes to true crime. I’ve been a curious fan of the musical based on the first number the team released on You Tube and finally seeing the show did not disappoint. It is beyond fabulous; it’s high camp fun, fun, fun!
The incredible cast have singing, acting, and dancing chops to burn. Kathy (Bronte Barbé) and Stella (Rebekah Hinds) play two true crime podcasters who find themselves attempting to solve a whodunnit around them. A misfit and a non-conformist make for an odd couple but outside of the podcast their prospects are bleak. They are going nowhere fast, their families are bugging them out of concern and their favourite author, Felicia Taylor, has just been killed. Can they solve the crime?
The cast includes Jodie Jacobs as Felicia Taylor and all her family. TJ Lloyd as morgue attendant Justin and he is an absolute delight. Imelda Warren-Green as crazed fan Erica. Onstage are also Jacob Kohli (ensemble, cover Justin), and Sarah Pearson (ensemble, swing). A guitarist, two keyboards and a drummer make up the band. Its tight, loud, and outrageous!
“Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder!” is written and directed by Jon Brittain. Accompanied by punchy music and lyrics from Matthew Floyd Jones, who plays keyboard on stage, it has plenty of goose-bump moments, high notes, hilarious lyrics, and great vocal blends. The musical has little in the way of scenery – it’s the band and the cast, a small staircase, and a cork board backdrop, a couple of roller chairs and of course the all-important podcast microphone. I was impressed by the use of mobile and computer props – after all al lot happens on the internet nowadays. Costuming is spot on in terms of supporting character (set and costume design Cecila Carey)
So, where is the substance – well it’s about some serious stuff: murders and miscarriages of justice; personal failure; appearances, and a welcome gentle recognition that anxiety and depression exist in many lives. It explores what drives the intense interest in true crime podcasts and who the audiences are all sharing both in the true crime community and the existential dread that accompanies these obsessions. The questionable ethics of some presenters gets a serve too. The centre of this musical is a terrific story about great friends and what friendship means.
This musical isn’t breaking new ground. Its small and could be played in an intimate cabaret style space. The very GP, down-to-earth vibe is part of its growing popularity. Sometimes people just want a great night out and feel that what they are engaging in is about them too.
“Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder!” kills it!