• remind me tomorrow
  • remind me next week
  • never remind me
Subscribe to the ANN Newsletter • Wake up every Sunday to a curated list of ANN's most interesting posts of the week. read more

The London Cast of Your Lie in April: The Musical

by Andrew Osmond,

At the beginning of June, I sat down with the four central cast members of the upcoming London production of Your Lie in April: The Musical, which starts a 12-week West End run from June 28 at the Harold Pinter Theatre. This is the English-language version of the musical, which originally opened in Tokyo in 2022. Its American composer, Frank Wildhorn, is planning to bring the musical to New York in the future.


As many ANN readers know, Your Lie in April is the story of two teenage musicians. Kosei was once a child prodigy pianist, but now he's haunted by memories of his dead mother, and he's unable to play a note. Until, that is, Kosei encounters Kaori, a brilliant violinist who needs a pianist to accompany her. She's a free spirit, a counterpoint to Kosei's neurotic perfectionism. Can she save him from his demons?

Of course, there's much more to the story, such as the perspective of Tsubaki, Kosei's childhood friend, who harbors her own secret feelings for the boy. And what exactly is the lie in April referenced in the title?

Originally a manga by Naoshi Arakawa in Monthly Shonen Magazine, Your Lie in April was later adapted into an anime by A-Pictures in 2014.

from left to right: Rachel Clare Chan, Dean John Wilson, Zheng Xi Yong, Mia Kobayashi.

The upcoming London production will feature Mia Kobayashi as Kaori, Zheng Xi Yong as Kosei, Rachel Clare Chan as Tsubaki, and Dean John-Wilson as the fourth major character, the school soccer star Ryota. Zheng Xi Yong is a classical pianist who plays live on stage, while John-Wilson previously took the role of L in two London concert performances of Death Note: The Musical in August 2023. Like Your Lie in April: The Musical, Death Note: The Musical was composed by Frank Wildhorn.

While this is Kobayashi's stage debut, the other three actors previously appeared in the same roles when Your Lie in April: The Musical had three "in concert" performances last April at London's Theatre Royal Drury Lane.

Most of the following interview has minimal story spoilers. However, as marked in the text, the last two questions include significant spoilers for the end of the story.

What are your backgrounds in musical theatre?

ZHENG XI YONG (Kosei): I trained in musical theatre at the Royal Academy of Music in London. And in relation to this show, I started learning the piano when I was six. I watched Your Lie in April after the show was announced. I just saw they announced this anime musical where the lead plays classical piano. There wasn't even any news of any auditions yet. I looked at the classical pieces that Kosei plays in the anime and learned them in advance in case I had to play them in the audition, but I never did!

Mia, the other actors previously appeared in the London "concert" performances of Your Lie in April, which played briefly in April. How were you chosen for the role of Kaori?

MIA KOBAYASHI (Kaori): It was through my agent; I got an audition for it. The first round was to sing two songs that Kaori sings and then my own pop song in my repertoire. I sang "Somebody to Love" from [the Queen musical] We Will Rock You – a bit of a belter! I was called back for the second round, which was two more Kaori songs and a scene that was a good back-and-forth with Kosei to see the chemistry. And I did a dance routine.

I was thinking, "It's usually a few rounds for these auditions," so I was hoping to get a call saying I'd been asked to go to the next round… [But] I just got a phone call saying I'd got the part. So it was only two rounds and very quick. I was so surprised; it didn't really sink in.

Rachel, your musical experience includes Death Note on stage.

RACHEL CLARE CHAN (Tsubaki): My first job out of drama school was Death Note: The Musical in London. I was Sayu, Light's little sister. She has more of a role in the musical than she does in the anime or manga. It was really fun.

Dean, you've had a great deal of stage experience, including L in Death Note: The Musical.

DEAN JOHN-WILSON (Ryota): It was amazing to create the role of L here in London. It's wonderful to work on anime characters, breathing life into them, taking them off the page, and allowing people to see their human sides.

How do you see Your Lie in April, as a piece of musical theatre?

RACHEL CLARE CHAN: It brings classical music into the world of theatre. They're so incorporated into each other; it's really unique. Because the story centers around two classical musicians, it's a really beautiful thing to see elements of classic music pieces ingrained through the storytelling. While it does have staples like incredible duets and beautiful, luscious melodies, I think it has a sound that's quite unique. And each character has a very individual way of expressing themselves through music. They bring their own colors to the palette, and it's super freeing.

ZHENG XI YONG: I think what's amazing is how well Frank has incorporated classical music with pop. It's not just a show that goes pop, classical, pop, classical. There's classical music woven into the pop songs he's written and even into the underscoring themes from Debussy, Chopin, and Beethoven.


MIA KOBAYASHI: We did a bit of a workshop with Frank Wildhorn through Zoom, and he was really on about "Scratch all that musical theatre training." That's a bold statement, but it's in terms of how I had been trained to be by the book when learning a song—I'm gonna hit this note now, that goes like "this," that goes like "that." But now it's like, "You hear the music, you let it flow, do whatever you want, and see where it takes you."

That sounds like a reflection of how your character Kaori plays music.

MIA KOBAYASHI: It is. I started off as Kosei, being by the book, and now I've completely flipped!

Some readers may have seen the musical in London in April. How will the upcoming version be different?

DEAN JOHN-WILSON: We now have a fresh body in the room, which will immediately change the three who have already played the roles. We've got a longer period to rehearse so we can flesh certain moments out, things that were maybe brushed over or not fleshed out as much in the short run. There's a bigger budget, so there's going to be lots of cool projections and awesome stuff with set design, lighting, and costumes. It's a bigger show.

Is there dancing in the new version?

ZHANG XI YONG: Some characters dance more than others; it just depends on the story. The ensemble members…

MIA KOBAYASHI: The ensemble have a sick routine!


RACHEL CLARE CHAN: They do amazing choreography; it's really fun to watch.

Were any of you acquainted with Your Lie in April before this production?

MIA KOBAYASHI: I grew up with a Japanese mother. Even though I was born and raised here in England, I would visit Japan for a few weeks every year, always in April. I grew up with Studio Ghibli stuff like Totoro and Ponyo. But every time I went to Japan I would see these posters of a girl with a violin and a boy with a piano. As soon I heard about the show, I googled it and that image I always saw was there.

Rachel, your character Tsubaki has a significant crush on Kosei in the anime and manga. Is that still the case in the musical?

RACHEL CLARE CHAN: Very much so. I think she's so relatable because everyone has that experience of being head over heels for somebody and maybe not having those feelings returned. I think it's what makes her so endearing: watching her journey, having grown up with Kosei, and wanting to express her feelings. I think in the musical she has a little bit more of a resolve with it than we see in the anime. We see her take a different approach to letting him know. That's really fun and interesting to get to play with.

Dean, is your character Ryota similar to the anime character?

DEAN JOHN-WILSON: Yeah, I think we've taken some points from the source material, remaining true to that. Ryota is the soccer captain of his school. He is an absolute womanizer; he just wants to be loved by every woman, or at least he thinks he is. This is kind of what I've started to play with; at least he thinks he is. He thinks he's cooler than he actually is and feels he can just get anyone at the drop of a hat, and that's why he thinks he can get Kaori.

[The last questions have MAJOR SPOILERS for the end of Your Lie in April.]

Some viewers might wonder about Kaori spending all her time supporting Kosei, despite everything we later learn about what she's going through herself. What do you feel about that?

MIA KOBAYASHI: I guess every individual has their own outlook on life. When you are told you only have a limited time left, you do all the things you want to do in life, like skydiving and swimming with sharks. You live life to the fullest before it's over, and for Kaori, that was playing with Kosei. And I think instead of frowning on that, let's celebrate the fact that she is so selfless. Even though it's limiting time for her, she is thinking of someone else and wanting to spend her last time with him; that is what makes her feel like she's lived life.

ZHENG XI YONG: It's such an altruistic sense of purpose of life, to help someone she cares about so much. But also the show talks about music and the memory of you living on through other people's music. So, in a way, she gets to live further because she has affected Kosei and changed his life.

The manga writer Naoshi Arakawa mentioned that he "wavered" about the story's ending (as mentioned in an ANN interview conducted by Deb Aoki at Anime Expo 2016). Do you feel the ending could have been happier?

RACHEL CLARE CHAN: I think everybody can only wish for a happier ending; I think everybody gets so attached to these characters, so it's really heartbreaking to see how it resolves. But it's a beautiful reflection of real life; your life has ups and downs and heartbreaks, and everybody will encounter them in one form or another. I think that's why it has the following it has, because it doesn't shy away from tackling those things head on.

MIA KOBAYASHI: When I first watched the anime, it was a bit like, "Oh, two deaths. First, the mother…" I was like, "Is Kosei going to live?" It is very heartbreaking. But I feel the reason why Kaori is so front-footed is she knows what she wants, and there isn't time, but nobody knows. In the anime, it's so interesting how her personality switches, and she goes from RAW-RAW-RAW to all happy. And it's because in the back of her head, time is ticking, and she wants to get this done.

I feel like if it all worked out and they finally played together and she lived, it would be like, "Oh, that was a blip. Let's live life!" It doesn't really work. The moral of the story is she had a time limit; she knew what she wanted; she got through it; time is up and then that's it.

ZHANG XI YONG: I just think it's beautiful that she was someone so young who knew how to live life without regrets. And I think that is an important moral in itself, to live life to the fullest.

discuss this in the forum (1 post) |
bookmark/share with: short url

Interview homepage / archives