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Your Lie in April | Harold Pinter Theatre

Your Lie in April is a new musical based on the Manga of the same name by Naoshi Arakawa, with the original book by Riko Sakaguchi and English book by Rinne B. Groff. The musical is created by Frank Wildhorn and directed and choreographed by Nick Winston. Your Lie in April is an absolute credit to the West End and Musical Theatre, bringing not only a beautiful story with excellent score, but an extremely talented all-asian cast for the first time ever. Your Lie In April is melodic, dazzling and pulsates with love, life, laughter, sorrow and hope. A truly inspiring homage to music, musicians and resilience, it's a musical that can't be missed. 

Your Lie In April follows Kosei Arima (Zheng Xi Yong), a young musical prodigy who can no longer hear music following his mother's death. Although encouraged to practice music again by his friends, the fiesty Tsubaki Sawabe (Rachel Clare Chan) and cheerful Ryota Watari (Dean John Wilson), Kosei is resistant, unwilling to face the sorrow, shame and secrets that are entertwined with his piano, until new transfer student and violinist Kaori Miyazono (Mia Kobayashi) joins. Arriving as a whirlwind, she forces him to confront his past, and break down barriers and rediscover himself and his love for music. However, her own secret and lies threatens them all. 

Kobayashi (making her professional and West End debut) is phenomenal as Kaori. Kobayashi delivers a memorable performance that is utterly captivating and steals the show with ease. From the very first instance the audience hears Kobayashi sing, it's clear that this musical is magical. Kobayashi tackles some truly powerful and tricky numbers, including her solo "Perfect" effortlessly, and leaves the audience giddy and reeling from her wonderful performance. She breathes life into Kaori, bringing an array of colour and warmth into Kosei's life and is a charming stage presence.

Yong as Kosei is genius casting. Subtler than his fellow performers, Yong's performance feels more intimate and heartfelt, and this is evident in the many tears shed throughout the show as he remains moved by the piece itself. Yong beautifully encapsulates the small mannerisms of Kosei, managing to convey so much of the character's history in his acting, whilst also bringing his own unique spin on the character. Yong is a strong performer and this is particularly evident in the show's opening number "If I Can't Hear the Music" but it's his brilliant gift of piano playing that remains with the audience long after the show. Yong performs "Rachmaninoff- Prelude in G Minor" as Kosei, and it's a solid nearly five minutes of Yong playing the piano live, as the stage slowly rotates and it's one of the show's strong and most mesmerising moments and deserves its long standing ovation.

Chan proves herself as one of the West End's most capable and talented rising stars with her portrayal of Tsubaki. Balancing a fiesty and funny tom-boyish best friend, with a mature and sensitive unrequited love for Kosei, Chan easily wins the audience over and makes a solid impact on the show. Gifted with incredible vocals, great comedic talent and dazzling stage presence, Chan shines brightly as Tsubaki.  However, the musical's only flaw is its treatment of the talented Dean John-Wilson as Ryota. Although Wilson is tasked with bringing the much-needed light hearted moments and laughter, and remains unforgettable with his cheesy one-liners, hilarious reactions and unwavering loyalty, he's severely underused in this production. This is particularly evident in "100 Lost Days", when the audience are treated to his exquisite voice and ability to riff in a small dosage. With several of his songs and storyline removed for this production, it's puzzling why they've reduced Watari to a stock character, and Wilson to a minor side character. 

Ernest Stroud and Ericka Posadas as Takeshi and Emi, two of Kosei's musical rivals are a hilarious and heartwarming duo. Eu Jin Hwang as Kaori's father is a wonderful choice, and manages to make audiences both laugh and cry with his performance. Lucy Park as Kosei's late mother, along with Theo Oh as young Kosei, bring a delicacy to the piece. Oh is adorable, formidable and enormously talented as he takes on the tough role, complete with piano playing and duets with Yong. The ensemble work together to create magic of their own, with stirring musical numbers, fast paced choreography and ensuring that each character has sense of individuality. Particularly amusing is the excitable Imogen Law Hing Choy who guesses Tsubaki's love for Kosei, Chris Fung's iconic "No" during a heated competition and JoJo Meredith as a sleeping student, who also shines with his own vocal range. 

Your Lie in April is absolutely some of legendary composer Frank Wildhorn's best work. With lyrics by the immensely talented duo Carly Robyn Green and Tracy Miller, the songs beat at the heart of this piece and will doubtlessly be added to many a playlist and listened on repeat following a visit to the musical. With stirring duets like "Catch a Shooting Star" and "One Hundred Thousand Million Stars", to the heart breaking "Where's My Superhero?", "I Can Hear You" and "Just Like A Movie", to comedic numbers "Who Put You in Charge Here?" Wildhorn, Green and Miller deliver nothing short of a musical miracle with every song sparkling in this soundtrack. 

It would be a crime not to mention the beautiful set by Justin Williams, who has used the colour palate of the anime (white, blue and pink) to create a multi-tiered stage with a large gorgeous cherry blossom tree at the back, leaving space for Kosei's piano to sit centre stage. It's a simple design, yet feels so right for this story, where the music (classical pieces and musical numbers) takes foreground. Rory Beaton, Dan Light, Adam Fisher and Rob Bettle come together (Lighting, Video and Sound Design) to create a clever drowning and rippling effect to denote Kosei's mental block and trauma with a haunting face looming behind him. The lighting is beautiful, with shades of pink and blue illuminating the stage, assisting in scene transitions and the atmosphere of the beloved anime. 

Your Lie in April is heavily influenced with classical music, traditional Japanese music, and western musical numbers and the band more than deliver. With musical arrangements by Jason Howland, supervised by Katy Richardson, the music flows richly and engulfs the theatre within. The music is directed and conducted by Chris Poon, with associate direction by Chris Ma. Akiko Ishikawa stands in for Kobayashi as the violinist, joining her on stage and performing to the audience during musical moments in her own captivating and intimate performance, and delivers an impressive performance. The musical is a living breathing symphony and the audience are privileged to be sat within.

Your Lie in April not only hits the right notes, but reminds the audiences the power and magic of music and will leave audiences moved and leaving bolder. Heart-breaking, heart-wrenching, and hopeful, this is a musical piece that brings out the best of humanity. Your Lie in April is currently playing at the Harold Pinter Theatre until 21st September - for tickets and more information, you can follow the link here.

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (5*)

Gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Craig Sugden


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