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Your Lie in April

5
Seen at the Harold Pinter Theatre
By Derek - 6th Jul 2024

A Japanese high-school tear-jerker romance based on a popular manga story – not for me, surely? But it gently beckons everyone in, with subtleties of Japanese culture, teen classical music competition and a tragic story. After his mother’s death, KoÌ„sei Arima, a young piano prodigy, is unable to play. As he strikes up a friendship with violinist Kaori Miyazono, she slowly encourages him to perform again. This adaption is based on Your Lie in April, a five-million-selling manga by Naoshi Arakawa. Composer Frank Wildhorn blends classical pieces by Rachmaninoff with a contemporary pop infused musical theatre score in a surprisingly successful way. It will skillfully introduce many youngsters to classical music and bring classical doyens to the world of musical theatre. However, I was not convinced by all the lyrics, wanting more wit beyond the rhymes.

The set works hard to create atmosphere: video screens, often showing mother’s dead face, expand the visuals of cherry blossom, multi-levels and a piano on a revolve. Rory Beaton’s lighting enhances time, space and emotions.

All of the cast have South East Asian heritage - it is the first 100% SE Asian cast in a West End musical and they all shine. Zheng Xi Yong (KoÌ„sei) plays live piano throughout the show and is excellent. I could believe in him winning competitions. His energy powers the show as he struggles with emotions towards his mother, his music and his friends. It is a masterful performance. Mia Kobayashi balances his self-doubt with delightful free-spirited Kaori, her enthusiasm is infectious and her voice has beautiful tone. Akiko Ishikawa provides sumptuous live violin music for Kaori and they mirror the double character effect convincingly. Rachel Clare Chan (Tsubaki) and Dean John Wilson (Ryota) complete the quartet of friends/would-be lovers and provide much of the comedy to lighten the mood. Lucy Park as Kosei’s Mother looms throughout yet conveys her complex love for her son effortlessly.

Director/Choreographer Nick Winston uses the space imaginatively and gets the best from his young cast. His choreography could be more inventive, but the bicycle dance is great fun.

The right to left programme reminds us of the production’s origin and Japanese formality in the production emphasises it, but this is a show to delight anyone.

A Japanese high-school tear-jerker manga romance? For me? Yes, by the end there were tears in my eyes!

Derek Benfield


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