Tag Archives: Zheng Xi Yong



Theatre Royal Drury Lane

YOUR LIE IN APRIL at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane


“Frank Wildhorn’s sumptuous score sweeps through the auditorium with its rousing ballads”

Midway through Act Two of “Your Lie In April” something extraordinary happens. Zheng Xi Yong, as the young musical prodigy Kōsei Arima, places himself at the piano and delivers an impassioned and outstanding solo. A moment during which the music demonstrates its unique power to lift us out of the world that surrounds us. Quite rightly it brings us to our feet as the final chords melt away into a brief silence before the applause. The emotion is heightened in the context of Yong’s character. A child prodigy, Kōsei Amina has a mental breakdown following the death of his mother. Although his hearing is otherwise unaffected, he is no longer able to hear the sound of his own piano.

For years he doesn’t touch the piano. Until he meets Kaori Miyazono, a free-spirited violinist who coaxes him back into playing. Miyazono teaches Arima that it is okay to occasionally deviate from the score; to let the music truly express the emotion rather than to seek the perfection that crippled him and that was instilled in him by his overbearing mother. Rumi Sutton gives us a polished performance as the manic Kaori, concealing her love for Kōsei with a lie that gives the musical its title.

The other shining star in this show is featured violin soloist, Akiko Ishikawa. Spotlit each time she underscores Sutton’s mimed recitals, it is a smart device. No director in their right mind would expect their leading lady to act, sing and play the violin simultaneously. Director and choreographer Nick Winston has eked out fine performances from the couple, mixing splashes of comedy with their story of unrequited love.

It is a fairly simple premise – but perhaps fleshed out too much – based on Naoshi Arakawa’s Manga series of the same name. Frank Wildhorn’s sumptuous score sweeps through the auditorium with its rousing ballads, interspersed with the odd, quirky upbeat number. Wildhorn demonstrates his skill at throwing in the unexpected just at the right moments and just as we think the score might become generic, we are met with some gorgeous modulations and chord changes. Sutton’s voice handles this all with ease and emotional strength.

Jason Howland’s musical arrangements call on an expansive ensemble that, despite yielding rousing choruses, is perhaps unnecessarily large for the show’s material. Likewise, we are offered a subplot that, although necessary for the understanding of the relationships, feels coincidental and secondary. There is a heart wrenching intimacy to the story that gets lost occasionally in the fanfare and flourishes. The detail is in the romance; the friendships and selfless sacrifices, and the broken hearts. And we want to look up close at the human element, rather than from up in the Gods through a wall of sound.

But, with credit to the committed ensemble company, we are still drawn in, and we feel for the protagonists. She, who only reveals her love when it is too late and he, who cannot hear his own music. He learns, however, to listen to it in his heart. We, the audience, are lucky enough to have one up on him. “Your Lie In April” is a musical that touches our hearts, but we also get to savour each and every note delivered with masterful vocals.

YOUR LIE IN APRIL at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane

Reviewed on 8th April 2024

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Mark Senior







Previously reviewed at this venue:




Click here to see our Recommended Shows page





Watermill Theatre



Watermill Theatre Newbury

Reviewed – 30th September 2019



“knocks the socks off the original cast recording”


“Attention must be paid”. Towards the end of his musical ‘Assassins’, which had a triumphant performance at the Watermill Theatre in Newbury last night, the legendary Stephen Sondheim quotes this line from Arthur Miller’s ‘Death of a Salesman’.

‘Assassins’ is a musical that asks just exactly what would make ten Americans want to kill eight Presidents, from Lincoln to Reagan. The answer lies in that quote, which neatly also describes the audience’s rapt concentration during a quite extraordinary show. And if you are thinking that the killing of presidents and the fate of their would-be assassins is a rather macabre subject for a musical, be re-assured. Although it carries a 14+ advisory, this is an altogether entertaining and most thought-provoking show.

The Watermill has a history of championing eight times Tony award-winning Sondheim, whose work is held in such awe that even the most august critics are reduced to scrabbling autograph hunters in his presence. ‘Assassins’ is by no means his best-known work, but it is perhaps his most intriguing.

Not long into the piece, which had its premiere off-Broadway in 1990, the character of the Balladeer (here played with great presence and likeability by Lillie Flynn) sings “Every now and then the country goes a little wrong. Every now and then a madman’s bound to come along” And if you are thinking that line has more than a little resonance today, I suspect Sondheim would agree with you.

Space is tight at the Watermill, making any performance an intimate and involving experience. Director Bill Buckhurst has cleverly used a Coke machine to replace the fairground shooting gallery specified in the script, and Simon Kenny’s set design is starkly effective, with some ingenious twists towards the end.

It’s a little invidious to highlight standout performances in such a tight ensemble work, but several deserve special mention. Steve Simmonds’ has two brilliantly intense monologues as Samuel Byck, who planned to hijack a 747 to kill Nixon. Zheng Xi Yong gives a sinuous and wonderfully committed performance as Giuseppe Zangara who attempted to assassinate FD Roosevelt.

Evelyn Hoskins (Lynette ‘Squeaky’ Fromme) and Sara Poyzer (Sarah Jane Moore) have some excellent scenes. Poyzer plays a cookie ex-Fed, nicely contrasting with Hoskins’ weed-toting take on mass-murderer Manson’s moll. Eddie Elliott has a powerful charisma as Charles Guiteau, especially in the difficult key-changing number he sings so brilliantly just before his character walks to the gallows. Joey Hickman has a menacing glassy-eyed demeanour as the Proprietor of this captivating parade of human failings. Alex Mugnaioni is eerily compelling as ‘the pioneer’ – the first Presidential assassin, John Wilkes Booth. Ned Rudkins-Stow has the task of bringing to life John F Kennedy’s assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. The traumatic impact of this murder on the American mindset resonates to this day, and Rudkins-Stow’s lean interpretation makes it crystal clear that Oswald was a simple-minded victim of manipulation.

Catherine Tyler is responsible for the compelling orchestration, which makes the most of the entire cast’s astonishing musical abilities, requiring some of them to play one instrument whilst holding another, and to jump seamlessly from drums or keyboard to appearing centre stage. Expert choreography by Assistant Director Georgina Lamb ensures it all works smoothly.

This version of ‘Assassins’ knocks the socks off the original cast recording and is strongly recommended.


Reviewed by David Woodward

Photography by The Other Richard



Watermill Theatre Newbury until 26th October


Previously reviewed at this venue:
Burke & Hare | ★★★★ | April 2018
A Midsummer Night’s Dream | ★★★★ | May 2018
Jerusalem | ★★★★★ | June 2018
Trial by Laughter | ★★★★ | September 2018
Jane Eyre | ★★★★ | October 2018
Robin Hood | ★★★★ | December 2018
Murder For Two | ★★★★ | February 2019
Macbeth | ★★★ | March 2019
Amélie | ★★★★★ | April 2019
The Importance Of Being Earnest | ★★★★ | May 2019


Click here to see our most recent reviews