Review: Your Lie in April – Harold Pinter Theatre

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Moving, beautiful and refreshingly emotional

On a multi-level stage framed by cherry blossoms and beautifully clouded in the floating pinks, blues and violets of dry ice, Your Lie in April is a powerful musical about love, imperfection, grief and forgiveness, writes Mary Bradshaw.

The Harold Pinter Theatre houses the English-language premiere of this stunning musical adaptation of Naoshi Arakawa’s popular manga series about navigating love and loss in high school. Its emotional intensity (and honesty) offers adult viewers a refreshing trip back in time, but it is by no means rose-tinted. Teenage audience members will find reassuringly accurate expressions of unrequited and friend-zoned love, of those butterflies that come with high-school crushes, of the struggles of internalised parental pressure as well as an exploration of how to cope with grief so early on in life.

The story centres around Kōsei Arima (Zheng Xi Yong, an impressive all-rounder and concert pianist). This piano prodigy is deafened by grief and paralysed with performance anxiety after the death of his perfectionistic mother (Lucy Park). He can no longer hear the music and is tormented by his mother’s harsh remarks each time he touches the keys. It’s Kōsei’s final year of high school when transfer student Kaori Miyazono (played by the exceptional Mia Kobayashi) enters the scene. She will teach him the arts of imperfection and emotional vulnerability (and why you should always choose cake over tap water).

Kōsei’s close friends – Tsubaki Sawabe (Rachel Clare Chan) and Ryota Watari (Dean John Wilson) – inject a pleasing dose of humour and energy into his life. Wilson delivers non-stop comic relief with his pseudo-machoistic poses and cringe-inducing pick-up lines. Chan’s emotional range is incredibly moving, and her true feelings become apparent as the show moves along.

The four leads are complemented by backing actors playing fellow students who move around the stage in perfectly synchronised choreography. They convey the gossipy and competitive hustle and bustle of college life – from locker room to concert hall. Kaori’s father (Eu Jin Hwang), and Kōsei’s two musical rivals (of whom he is blissfully unaware) are particularly hilarious.

The musical is also an ode to music itself as an incredible tool for self-expression and a tonic for relationships where words fail. Stand-out musical moments include solos by Akiko Ishikawa on the violin and Zheng Xi Yong on the piano, as well as Mia Kobayashi’s vocals which are astonishing in range and power. This performance, in her professional and West End debut, clearly marks her out as one to watch. The score (Frank Wildhorn) and lyrics (Carly Robyn Green and Tracy Miller) are catchy and pop-rock in style, and huge credit is due to Jason Howland’s work on the musical arrangement and orchestration. The show’s testament to the power of music also becomes clear when the orchestra is revealed from behind the background screen.

Your Lie in April is moving, beautiful and refreshingly emotional. Something about this manga adaptation feels a little too Americanised and overly busy in places, and at times the diction in the songs is disappointingly unclear. However, it certainly promises an enjoyable evening out and is a glittering showcase of young talent.

It runs until 21 September 2024 at the Harold Pinter Theatre

Click here for bookings

And here for the show website


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