Home » London Theatre Reviews » Your Lie in April The Musical – Harold Pinter Theatre | Review

Your Lie in April The Musical – Harold Pinter Theatre | Review

Well, it’s a memorable musical, I’ll give it that, and for all the external therapy there is out there (and in certain other shows, there’s something to be said for positive peer pressure and the encouragement of friends. Not one to have seemingly ever depended on the kindness of strangers, Kōsei Arima (Zheng Xi Yong) has internalised his struggles following the passing of his ultra-disciplinarian mother (Lucy Park), who he still ‘sees’ every time he attempts to play the piano, berating him and insisting on perfection, which in her eyes can only be achieved by reproducing precisely what is written on the sheet music, without the slightest deviation in tempo, chords or anything else.

Mia Kobayashi and Zheng Xi Yong in Your Lie in April The Musical. Photo credit: Craig Sugden.
Mia Kobayashi and Zheng Xi Yong in Your Lie in April The Musical. Photo credit: Craig Sugden.

A slight pity, then, that a rather avant-garde piece of music performed at one of many competitions Arima and his good friend and violinist Kaori Miyazono (Mia Kobayashi, one of several actors in this largely young company making their West End debuts in this show) which very much rankled the judges and even fellow contestants was cut from this full production (it appeared in the staged concert version of this show earlier this year). That Kōsei performs any music at all is largely down to a display of musical prowess when he was in primary school (the role of Young Kōsei / Little Boy is shared between Timothy Jian Soon, Eoin McLoughney and Theo Oh).

The audience is treated in the second half to what I am reliably informed was ‘Prelude in G Minor Op. 23 No. 5’, a piece of music by Sergei Rachmaninoff, composed to be played as a piano solo in 1901. It is unusual to hear classical music in musical theatre – though not unprecedented (a portion of the ‘Queen of the Night’ aria from Mozart’s The Magic Flute appears in School of Rock The Musical) – to hear a complex and intricate piece played to concert pianist standards was nothing short of beautiful. Granted, it’s not the sort of music I would listen to at home – I like a good showtune – but hearing it live in the way it was performed here deserved the sustained applause it received once it finished. Zheng Xi Yong (who, perhaps unsurprisingly, trained at the Royal Academy of Music) is one of a kind: I genuinely can’t think of anyone else who could play, sing, act and dance seemingly effortlessly.

Yeah, there’s dancing. Not to Rachmaninoff, of course, but do Frank Wildhorn’s jauntier numbers (though, goodness me, he’s also written a fair few Broadway ballads here too, and if you don’t like those soaring melodies that end on a Really Long Note, you’re better off seeing something else). Nick Winston (both director and choreographer) has done well with the stage space, especially given there’s a grand piano on stage (or is it a ‘baby grand’?) that even rotates. Not by itself, of course, before anyone responds with incredulity – it’s on a stage revolve.

Set in Japan and based on the Manga series of the same name (for the uninitiated, they are cartoons in book form, and Your Lie in April stretched to eleven volumes), the tunes are often bright and breezy. It’s a little like watching West Side Story – the story is grim in places and not every character makes it through to the end, but the perkier tunes bring joy to all but the hardest of hard hearts. Dean John-Wilson’s Ryota Watari seems somewhat underwritten (if I recall correctly, he’s lost a solo number he had in the previous staged concert version), though both he and Rachel Clare Chan’s Tsubaki Sawabe put in hugely likeable performances in their supporting roles.

I’m still not entirely sure what the ‘lie’ of the show’s title was, and even a Google search resulted in at least three possibilities. There are some minor quibbles with the book: it’s not clear from the show what Kaori is in hospital for. And who is looking after Kōsei if his mother has died and there’s no father figure to speak of? In the end, though, it’s a lively and briskly-paced production, capturing the vibrance and intensity of its youthful characters with passion and exuberance.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Kōsei Arima – Zheng Xi Yong
Kaori Miyazono – Mia Kobayashi
Tsubaki Sawabe – Rachel Clare Chan
Ryota Watari – Dean John-Wilson
Kosei’s Mother – Lucy Park
Ensemble – Chris Fung, Eu Jin Hwang, Mairi Ikegami, Gracie Lai, Imogen Law Hing Choy, JoJo
Meredith, Daniel Nardone, Ericka Posadas, Ernest Stroud, Ria Tanaka, Kevin Tristan.
Young Kōsei / Little Boy – Timothy Jian Soon, Eion McLoughney, Theo Oh.

Musical Director / Conductor – Chris Poon
Keyboard 2 / Guitar 2 / Assistant Musical Director – Cerys McKenna
Keyboard 1 – Michael Riley
Guitar 1 – Nick Fitch
Bass Guitar / Double Bass – Annie Blake
Drum kit / Percussion – Zach Okonkwo
Violin 1 – Akiko Ishikawa
Viola / Violin – Wei Wei Tan
Cello – Hsiao Ling Huang
Woodwind – Jin Theriault

Based on the Manga Your Lie In April by Naoshi Arakawa
Book by Riko Sakaguchi
English Language Book by Rinne B. Groff
Music by Frank Wildhorn
Lyrics by Carly Robyn Green and Tracy Miller
Music Arrangement and Orchestration: Jason Howland
Director and Choreographer: Nick Winston
Co-Director Jordan Murphy
Musical Supervisor: Katy Richardson
Musical Director / Conductor: Chris Poon
Set Designer: Justin Williams

New West End musical Your Lie in April beautifully fuses the classical masterpieces of Rachmaninoff with a stunning contemporary pop-infused musical theatre score by Tony, Emmy and Grammy-nominated composer Frank Wildhorn (Jekyll & Hyde, Bonnie & Clyde).

Kosei Arima, the perfect piano prodigy dubbed the “Human Metronome” for his mechanical accuracy, has won many prestigious competitions, but he loses his ability to hear music following the death of his mother. Can his friends help him return to the heights of his piano-playing peak?

Harold Pinter Theatre
28 June to 21 September 2024


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