Your Lie In April

After a successful concert appearance in April (funnily enough), Your Lie in April has now arrived at the Harold Pinter Theatre under the direction of Nick Winston for a 12-week run. After receiving critical acclaim and a great response from fans of the manga series and anime, which I confess I have not seen, expectations were high. Were the reviews merited, or was this just a lie?

Adapted from a Japanese manga series, Your Lie in April follows the story of Kosei Arima, a musical prodigy who gave up the piano after the death of his matriarchal mother. After struggling to “hear the music,” Kosei meets free-spirited violinist Kaori Miyazono, who encourages him to return to his calling. In the first scene, we hear that a lie was told in April, and we are not certain of their relationship. Taking source material that consists of 22 volumes, an anime series, and a live-action film is a mammoth task, and despite a few stumbles, Your Lie in April manages to succeed in staying true to its fans while also being accessible to newcomers.

With an English language book by Rinnie B. Groff, Your Lie in April wears its heart on its sleeve and then some; from its star-crossed lovers, a best friend with unrequited feelings, and a romantic rooftop encounter complete with shooting stars and snow, no emotional beat is subtle. It would be easy to accuse this show of mawkish sentimentality, however, what it may lack in subtlety, it more than makes up for in charm and a captivating romance that more than tugs on the heartstrings, especially in its suitably heart-breaking denouement.

The design of the show is simply a delight. Nick Winston brings his usual slick and assured direction and maintains a strong pace, yet he is not afraid to keep the actors still and his staging simple when the story encourages it. Special mention must go to Justin William’s set, which, along with Dan Light’s stunning video design, helps create an aesthetic that brings the style of manga to life while also being authentic to Japanese culture; any show that depicts cherry blossoms falling gets a win in my book.

Musically, Frank Wildhorn’s score is melodic and enchanting, providing a consistent voice for all of its characters while also offering some earworms worthy of the West End. Highlights include the heartwarming “Perfect” and the rousing “Just Like a Movie.” Sadly, the same cannot be said for Carly Robyn Green and Tracy Miller’s lyrics, which too often teeter on the knife-edge between cliché and on the nose. Characters spelling out their thought processes in a literal manner juxtaposes with the simplicity of Wildhorn’s melodies.

Featuring a cast who come solely from Southeast Asian heritage, Your Lie in April is graced with some truly stunning performances and a tightly worked ensemble who help give character to the chorus numbers. When it comes to its lead performances, Zheng Xi Yong brings a youthful innocence to Kosei, which matures gracefully during the story. Not only is he a terrific actor and singer, but he plays the piano live throughout the show and helps create musical magic throughout the Harold Pinter. Mia Kobayashi is truly delightful as Kaori. A soon-to-be graduate from Arts Educational, Kobayashi makes you fall in love with her instantly with her beautiful rendition of “Perfect.” It is a nuanced performance filled with humor, heartbreak, and pathos, aligned with a pop belt voice; she won everyone’s hearts. Rachel Clare Chan and Dean John Wilson also bring fine comedic timing to the roles of Tsubaki and Ryota Watari, respectively.

I can’t lie, Your Lie in April is not for everyone. Not everyone will get on board with the hopelessly romantic nature of the story or the obvious sentimentality. However, despite seeing all of this, the show worked its magic, and I was won over. I didn’t cry; you did!

This show was reviewed on the 6th July 2024 at the Harold Pinter Theatre where it runs until the 21st September 2024.  Tickets available here: Your Lie In April - The Musical

Review written by Alex Farley


Photo credit: Craig Sugden

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