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Death Note the Musical Concert | London Palladium


For one night only, London Palladium becomes home to highly anticipated European and English language premiere of Death Note the Musical. This show has gained a lot of hype and excitement from musical theatre fans and it’s easy to see why. The show is definitely one not to be missed and will move to the Lyric Theatre for a short stint from the 7th to the 10th September. After seeing the show, I recommend you get your tickets immediately as the casts and creatives have created something truly incredible.

The musical follows the story of the famous manga/anime ‘Death Note’, where a high school student (Light) discovers a notebook dropped by a shinigami Ryuk. Upon writing a person’s name in the notebook, that person will die. ‘L’ is employed to discover and stop Light. I had already gone in with rather high expectations, having seen Joaquin Pedro Valdes (Light) and Frances Mayli McCann (Misa) perform of the show’s two songs at West End Live, and from listening to the well received concept album with Jeremy Jordan, which had been hyped up for nearly a decade. The musical absolutely surpassed all and any expectations, and has made it into my favourite musicals list already.

The musical, although a stage adaptation of the manga, can be enjoyed even without knowing the story. The play does a great job of informing the audience of the story and determines the characters quite well, establishing the rules of this fictional world. It would definitely be more helpful to be aware of the manga as there are countless references, inside jokes and incidents that become even more clever and funny. It also makes it an even more fun watch to see the beloved characters come to life on stage thanks to this incredible cast. However, the show is stunning either way, and this doesn’t take anything away from the musical.

Although the musical claims to be a concert, the musical works as it is set up. With a few small changes, the show in its current state could really work as an actual musical. The storyline does a good job at relaying the story of death note, but it’s really in the songs and the unbelievably talented cast that the musical excels.

The staging is quite simple, with multiple rooms formed in a simple set design, with white walls and furniture. This design works especially well with this particular musical because the story often has multiple storylines occurring simultaneously, and this helps visually. This is particularly evident when Light first tries to kill L on TV; utilising all three locations at once. This also allows for each “room” to have different lighting, which makes for a rather stunning few minutes when multiple characters are on stage.

The lighting is so well-thought out, especially when the Green and Blue begin to meld into a turquoise towards the end of the musical. The scribbled screen background adds a sense of depth to the show, especially when it’s a plain red or white. The bright coloured self strobe lighting during Misa’s ‘I’m Ready’ is so familiar to a concert, and really works well. Another genius lighting moment is the use of green lasers, which emphasis L’s character as a detective of sorts. There’s also a hilarious use of an apple right at the end of the show, that I can’t elaborate about as this is a spoiler free review.

The storyline of the musical is understandably a little confusing at certain moments in the first half, as it tries to fill us in one a lot of information in an hour. It was always going to be a tough stretch to put 12 volumes of manga (37 episodes of anime) into two and a half hours, whilst also creating songs that allows the characters to portray their emotion. The show does an admirable job at not leaving out any major storylines, but sometimes they are unnecessarily glossed.

The show is so brilliant, but unfortunately the first act of the show was slightly let down by a number of issues in the sound production. This is the show’s first performance, so we were due a couple of technical glitches, but these were rather frequent. The mics of the actors often cut out or just never turned on, which made it rather hard to follow the story and songs in the first act, wherein the audience needed to follow closely to keep up. However, props to the cast, as they adjusted the volume of their own voices to counter this, played it up as a joke for the audience to laugh along with (Adam Pascal did this really well), and ignored the loud feedback (Joaquin managed to continue singing without missing a beat, amidst a particularly long moment of feedback.)

Another slight flaw with the sound production was the volume of the band in the first act. This led to the songs being musically dominated, and overshadowed the vocals. This made it a little harder to understand lyrics, but this was rectified in the second act, and went about nearly flawlessly. The band are absolutely incredible and the music is a pride to the show. The inclusion of clocks and chains to add tension to a few of the songs were a beautiful creative decision. Chris Ma is the show’s musical director, and does an incredible job. Drummers ‘Zachary Okonkwo’ and ‘Rachel Espeute’ both give it their all, and it’s such a wonderful experience to hear them play.

The songs themselves were absolutely incredible, and both Music Director Frank Wildhorn and Lyricist Jack Murray are both phenomenal. If nothing else about the musical interests you, then go for the songs, because they will stay with you, and make it onto your playlists.

From the famous ‘Where is the justice?’ starting the show, to the shinigami’s duet ‘they’re only human.’ The song is such a vocally strong piece with Aimee Atkinson and Adam Parson paired together, and the song has remained on a loop in my mind since. A few other standout musical numbers include ‘I’m Ready’ by Frances Mayli McCann, with some incredible dance choreography to ‘Secrets and Lies’ a wonderful song sang by Dean John Wilson, Joaquin Pedro Valdes and Christian Rey Marbella. Not to mention the show’s strongest song ‘Hurricane’ sang by the brilliant Joaquin Pedro Valdes.

Act two songs are more focused and gives the powerhouse Aimee Atkinson a real chance to shine in her role as the shinigami Rem. Ironically, she has the voice of an angel, and proves just how talented she is. Her ‘Mortal and Fools’ is stunning, and is made even better when Frances joins in, creating a heavenly melody. Aimee is given a final solo with ‘When Love Comes’ which will leave you wrecked, especially following straight on after Frances’Borrowed Time.’

The ensemble moments are rare, but used carefully to elevate the situation and really create a stunning scene. The chorus chant of “Kira, Kira, Kira”accompanied with red lighting gave me goosebumps every time it was performed. The final harmony of the ensemble, paired with cherry blossoms, creates a rather melodic and beautiful final imagery for the show.

A moment that I particularly wanted to address is the tennis match (and mental chess match) between L and Light. This scene was honestly the closest to perfection in a musical that I’ve ever seen. It’s an extraordinarily choreographed and executed flawlessly. Every aspect of this scene, from the music and lyrics, to the synchronised sound effects, to the actor’s performances and the slow build up of intensity both in the match and the larger show was just so well-done. Finally, I wanted to talk about this cast of extraordinarily talented actors. The two shinigamis Ryuk (Adam Pascal) and REM (Aimee Atkinson) are both show stealers, and compliment and hold their own against each other. Ryuk brings so much humour to the musical, and becomes a firm fan favourite. Also, a shoutout to the costumes, which will definitely inspire a number of cosplayers.

Rachel Clare Chan (Sayu) shone in her smaller role as Light’s younger sister. Her ‘We All Need A Hero’ is one of the show’s most moving and beautiful moments. This show marks Chan’s West End debut, and I’m looking forward to being witness to her future career. Dean John Wilson (L) deliveries a stunning and hefty performance, absolutely nailing the mannerisms that make L such a unique and popular character.

Frances Mayli McCann (Misa) does a stunning job. Whilst the script does occasionally leave Misa feeling a little two-dimensional, especially in her relationship with Light, McCann manages to deliver a spell-binding performance. It is Joaquin Pedro Valdes (Light), who is the musical’s stand out performer. From the first moment that he begins to sing, you know that the show has got something special. He has such a beautiful and powerful voice and it’s so gratifying to see him lead this globally acclaimed musical. A later reprise of ‘Hurricane’ sees him on his hands and knees, singing one of the most strongest and most powerful male solos in tears, and that brought on more tears, and genuinely move you.

The musical is an absolute must-watch, whether you like Death Note or not, as it’s a collection of some of the best voices from the west end (and broadway with the inclusion of Adam Pascal). The show also brings and proves that representation matters, and stuns with an almost entirely Asian cast (including the band members). There is only a few more performances, so run and book your tickets whilst you can. For more tickets and information, you can follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | Photography by Mark Senior


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