Kathy and Stella Solve a Murder - Underbelly Edinburgh Fringe
True crime, true hilarity
Last year the purple cow played host to Rob Madge’s wondrous show My Son’s a Queer, which in the year since has had two west end runs, winning over the hearts of thousands. I’d put money on a similar outcome for this marvellous show - soon to be musical theatre fans’ latest obsession.
Kathy and Stella host Hull’s least successful true-crime podcast but harbour dreams of making it to the big leagues. When their idol Felicia Taylor, a cold case solver and novelist, is brutally murdered after a book signing, the women find themselves caught up in the case of their lives. This might just be the chance they’ve been after, but “who knew solving a murder would be so hard?” Recording their podcast in Kathy’s mum’s garage the pair become an overnight success but whilst caught up in the subsequent rollercoaster, characters clash as clues unravel, can Kathy and Stella’s friendship survive?
Bronté Barbé, fresh from her run in Newsies, is delightful as the introverted Kathy, her cautious demeanour steadily melting away as she finds her own footing, not quite sure how to exist without her best mate. Her vocals are stunning, beautifully filling the Udderbelly space and when paired with Rebekah Hinds, the pair are unstoppable. Hinds holds the confidence on behalf of the two characters, her brash decision-making often landing them in hot water, but behind the facade lives a desperate desire to prove that she is not a failure. Hinds is Stella by name and stellar by nature - her comedic ability, particularly when taking jabs at the police is wasteful. Both give deeply endearing and dynamic performances - I left wishing their podcast was real to help endure the train journey back to London.
This production boasts a small but massively talented supporting cast. Jodie Jacobs revels in performing as the bombastic Felicia Taylor but equally shines as the seasoned detective tasked with solving Taylor’s murder. TJ Lloyd has a lot of fun as Kathy’s concerned mother and Justin, the sweet and invaluable morgue technician alongside Imelda Warren-Green’s overly excitable Erica. The whole cast are sensational in delivering the story, switching in and out of characters seamlessly, the rousing numbers delivered to near perfection.
Matthew Floyd Jones (music and lyrics) and Jon Brittain (book and lyrics) reunite after their simply stunning show A Super Happy Story (About Feeling Super Sad) (a musical I adored at the fringe in 2017). Jones’s music is vibrant and catchy, right at home in the modern musical theatre scene. The lyrics are fun and silly but cut right to the heart of who these characters are whilst progressing the plot efficiently. The book is lively and lighthearted, the cast thriving amongst its many comedic beats, but between the joyful bounds, there are heaps of heart that ensure the characters are well-rounded and authentic.
There is little wonder why this immediate fan favourite is consistently selling out one of the largest fringe venues in Edinburgh. It embarks on a short tour to Bristol and Manchester later this year, but a wider tour or London run feels more than inevitable (a perfect space at The Other Palace has just opened up - just saying). But for now this musical will continue to dazzle audiences in Edinburgh and it is well worth a ticket (if you can get one). This is a show that effortlessly delights, impossible not to adore, and ready to take on the world.
Running 11-13th, 15-20th, 22-27th - Tickets