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Harold Pinter Theatre

YOUR LIE IN APRIL at the Harold Pinter Theatre


“a fun-filled show, packed with bubbly pop numbers and heartfelt performances.”

The net is wide for source material for musicals so an adaptation of a hit manga turned anime feels like a ripe opportunity both for visual delights, and for ticket sales to an existing fan base.

The story is simple and sweet. It follows high schooler Kōsei’s (Zheng Xi Yong) struggle to recapture his musical ability after the loss of his mother. He is helped by his best friend, tomboy Tsubaki (Rachel Clare Chan) and by a mysterious new girl, Kaori (Mia Kobayashi) who is passionate about showing him the power of his talent.

Some aspects of the story’s translation to stage work beautifully – it is a story with music at its core. The show works well to weave in classical pieces, balancing them with Frank Wildhorn’s catchy and fun numbers. Zheng impressively plays a piano which remains ever present on stage. It is a love story of musicians, and a love letter to music.

Adaptation is a battle between what to leave in and what to cut. Rinne B Groff, who wrote the English language book, has made some surprising choices. A number about bike riding comes a bit out it nowhere – though the choreography by director and choreographer Nick Winston shines particularly in this scene. In a relatively short musical, there is less chance to develop story so each scene really counts. The plot unravels slowly, then all at once.

The tangled teenage triangles, united by the power of music are brought to life by Zheng’s believable anguish, Kobayashi’s mesmerising breathy vocals, Chan’s cartoonish enthusiasm and Dean John Wilson’s excellent comic timing. Lucy Park does a surprisingly moving turn as Kōsei’s mother, it’s almost a walk on part but she brings true emotion to it. Theo Oh is adorable, one of three alternating young Kōseis who make the audience audibly coo. Ernest Stroud and Erika Posadas are quiet scene stealers as resentful lesser piano competitors. And Chris Fung smashes the funniest moment in the show.

Playful nods to the manga shimmer (thanks to Rory Beaton’s lighting design) across Japanese screens which surround the set (Justin Williams). A cherry tree and a piano mark opposite ends of the stage. Between that and carved wooden steps, the set anchors the play with a much-needed sense of place. Without it, the show might feel eerily devoid of setting. There is a clean-cut all Americanness to Groff’s dialogue and Miller & Green’s lyrics which make the already contrived situations feel at times laughably silly. This silliness is not helped by everyone being in school uniform (designed beautifully by Kimie Nakano).

For 2024 a show where female characters prop up the main male story, at times risking their own health and wellbeing, does feel a little dated. There’s also a predictability to it, which alienates the drama a little.

However, for a younger audience or  fans of this particular genre, this could be a smash hit. The teenager beside me, a fan of the anime, was enraptured to see his favourite characters on stage. Despite a little cheesiness, this is a fun-filled show, packed with bubbly pop numbers and heartfelt performances.

YOUR LIE IN APRIL at the Harold Pinter Theatre

Reviewed on 5th July 2024

by Auriol Reddaway

Photography by Craig Sugden





See also:

YOUR LIE IN APRIL | ★★★★ | Theatre Royal Drury Lane | April 2024



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