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Your Lie in April (Susan Elkin reviews)

Your Lie in April

Based on the Manga Your Lie in April by Naoshi Arakawa

Director and Choreographer Nick Winston

Star rating 3

Your Life in April is a Japanese musical with English Language book by Rinne B Graff. Apart from the cherry tree and the ethnicity of most of the cast we might as well be in America. It’s a high school musical but a rather engaging, poignant one in which all the characters are decent, well meaning people and nobody is being nasty to anyone else. And this concert, semi-staged version both entertains and moves. No doubt there were dozens of hard-bitten producers in the audience assessing this show’s potential for further development. I think it has a future.

Kosei Arima (Zheng Xi Young) is a talented pianist driven hard in infancy by his perfectionist mother who then dies leaving her son traumatised and unable to play. Then he meets an attractive, talented young violinist Kaori (Rumi Sutton) who desperately wants him to play with her – he has previously been quite well known as a prodigy. Well it doesn’t quite reach the happy ending that, at the interval, I assumed it was heading for and the second half is rather darker than the first. In general, though, it’s a pretty positive celebration of the healing power both of music and of friendship.

I very much liked the centre stage positioning of Chris Poon’s fine 13-strong orchestra. And there’s fine work from Akiko Ishikawa and Chris Ma who play the necessary violin and piano lines while the actors mime. Then came a neat little theatrical tour de force when Zheng Xi Yong’s character finally found his feet and played a Rachmaninof prelude on piano – the actor is, actually, an accomplished pianist.

Frank Wildhorn’s music is wide ranging from the richly lyrical to heavy beat. “One Hundred Thousand Million Stars” for example is a particularly attractive number based on interwoven descending arpeggios for two voices.

Everyone sings pretty well although at one point Sutton was showing signs of voice strain at the top of her register. And I presume that the out of tune singing by Harrison Lui as the young Kosei was deliberately left “raw” to heighten the tenderness of the young Kosei duetting with his older self.

All this is supported by a talented ensemble – convincing as school teenagers and I loved the batwing sleeves on the dresses (costumes by Kimie Nakano) when the girls are pretending to be orchestral violinists at music competitions.

Yes, this is almost certainly a show with “legs” but it needs work. The ending, for example, is too drawn out and the plot gets blurry in the last half hour.

Author information
Susan Elkin Susan Elkin is an education journalist, author and former secondary teacher of English. She was Education and Training Editor at The Stage from 2005 - 2016
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