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Review: Your Lie In April - The Musical In Concert (Theatre Royal Drury Lane)

Review by Daz Gale

 

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The overwhelming success of a series of Death Note concerts last year proved there was well and truly an appetite for stage adaptations of manga stories in the West End, so it’s no surprise the production team have wasted no time in bringing another one over for the English language and European premiere of Your Lie In April for three very special concerts at Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Can they repeat the success of Death Note or would audiences fail to hear the music this time?



Your Lie In April appeared as a manga series from 2011 – 2015 and enjoyed a live-action movie in 2016 and a stage adaptation in 2017. While a musical version was announced in 2019, it took until 2022 for it to premiere due to the pandemic. It tells the story of young piano prodigy Kōsei Arima who finds himself unable to play following his mother’s death. A meeting violinist Kaori Miyazono holds the key for helping him find his love for music again, as well as love itself. As always, the course of true love never did run smooth and certain obstacles throughout may mean a happy ending is hard to find this time around.

 

With the manga written by Naoshi Arakawa, original book writer Riko Sakaguch and English language book writer Rinne B.Groff find a way to adapt it for the stage with a gorgeous book allowing the dialogue to flow naturally and have the word transcend beyond the stage right into your heart. With a lot of romance and tragedy prevalent throughout, Your Lie In April is a deeply poignant and emotional story, and its ability to convey these emotions in a subtle slow-burning way is a testament to the genius of the writing. With a story that never lags, I was gripped from start to finish and am not ashamed to say I was a weeping mess at the end.



This is the third concert collaboration between composer Frank Wildhorn and director Nick Winston – like their previous concerts Bonnie & Clyde and Death Note, this one is, quite fittingly, a lie. While a great deal of interpretation can be taken with the word “concert”, Your Lie In April is intricately staged, feeling far closer to a full production than a concert. As in their previous collaborations, the pair have found the winning formula to the gold standard of these musical theatre concerts, and Your Lie In April is no exception, matching the previous two effortlessly.

 

Nick Winston’s direction is inspired throughout, finding new and interesting ways to convey the heart of the story and ensure nothing is lost in translation. His choreography brings the group numbers to life with vivacity, creating a visual feast which leaves the stage exploding with life. The real charm is in the more intimate moments with an attention to detail ensuring every word, every expression and every movement is delivered with precision, creating true beauty and theatre magic. Justin Williams’ set design is simple yet effective with its gorgeous and colourful set up giving the cast plenty of scope while using a minimal sense of props. While these concerts tend to have sound problems, Adam Fisher’s sound design ensured this was always crystal clear and never inaudible with only the most minor of missed cues in the opening few minutes.



While Your Lie in April is a beautiful story in itself, it is Frank Wildhorn’s music that really adds to it. Instantly grabbing you from opening number ‘If I Can’t Hear The Music’,, the standard of the music never dips at all, creating one of the most consistent and high quality scores I have heard in a long time. With fantastic lyrics courtesy of Carly Robyn Green and Tracy Miller, the end result is a gorgeous new musical which feels destined to become a classic. Musical highlights throughout the sensational numbers include the sweet ‘Perfect’, ‘Catch A Shooting Star’ and the stunning ‘In Your Hands’. This is the rarest of musicals where there isn’t a dud song to be found among them – the care that has been crafted to ensure the songs further the narrative and complement the story perfectly have created something truly wonderful.

 

While the production elements all make Your Lie In April a masterpiece, the cast are equally sensational. Zheng Xi Yong leads the cast as Kōsei Arima, giving a masterclass performance and showing no limit to his undeniable talents. In a performance that can be understated and nuanced, he taps in to the complexities of the character to give a performance bursting with authenticity that forms the emotional heart of the show. As well as a lovely singing voice, Zheng also plays the piano live on stage – something that is integral to the convincing nature of the character. With Kōsei a piano prodigy, Zheng’s talent lives up to this, culminating in a prolonged piano piece in the second act which received the biggest response of the evening. Music is integral to the narrative of Your Lie In April and this performance helped further that.



Rumi Sutton wows in her turn as Kaori Miyazono with an initially playful character that gradually reveals itself in what is a demanding performance, flawlessly executed by Rumi. Any song she gets her vocals on are immediately blessed with a soaring range that is capable of bringing the house down at any turn. Rachel Clare Chan gives a sweet and predominantly comedic performance as Tsubaki Sawabe, lighting up the stage whenever she is present. Dean John-Wilson channels his inner jock with a confident and charismatic turn as Ryota Watari, while the phenomenal Joanna Ampil may be relatively underused but always makes her limited stage time memorable in a captivating portrayal as Kosei’s mother. The supporting cast all deserve credit too, working brilliantly as an ensemble and individually getting their own moments to shine in a cast with no weak link to be found.

 

Sometimes you watch a new musical explode on stage for the first time and know you have just witnessed the next big thing. While Death Note is likely to return to the West End in the not too distant future, Your Lie in April may be racing to get there first. There is plenty to love about this show – its beautiful story is full of both joy and sorrow, reflecting life itself – this creates a poignant and affecting show which speaks of the fragility of life. With an expert cast on hand, it is Frank Wildhorn’s music which takes the show to stratospheric new levels. Throughout Your Lie In April, the theme of being able to hear music is mentioned – with music as amazing as this, I’m longing to hear it over and over again. In Your Lie In April, an instant classic has been born – to quote a number from the show itself, it may just be perfect… and that’s no lie.



Your Lie in April finishes its run at Theatre Royal Drury Lane on April 9th. Visit www.yourlieinapril.co.uk for information on what’s next for this show.

 

Photos by Marc Senior

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