With a dark plot but wonderfully vibrant score, Death Note the Musical certainly makes an impact says Emma Clarendon.

(c)Mark Senior

Sitting at the London Palladium waiting for Death Note the Musical to start, I was very aware of an absolutely buzzing atmosphere that I haven’t experienced at the theatre for a long time and it was clear from this just how popular this manga story is. Based on this incredibly atmospheric production of the musical, it looks set to find a whole new wave of fans in those who have never read manga.

The premise of the story begins with  two Shinigamis, who are bored with their roles as the gods of death and one Ryuk drops his notebook which has sinister powers in among the humans to be found by teenager Light. Light, who is frustrated with the way justice is dealt with, takes matters into his own hands by taking the lives of criminals who he feels deserve severe punishment for their crimes. However, it isn’t long before things get out of control as he finds the power he has intoxicating – being both revered and feared by many.

Having been published as manga from 2003 to 2006, it is very much credit to Ivan Menchell that the story comes across straight forward for even those who haven’t read the original material. There is a darkness and sense of intrigue to the script which makes it compelling to watch unfold, while the music by Frank Wildhorn and lyrics by Jack Murphy are suitably vibrant and exciting that makes it as a musical particularly memorable. Songs such as ‘Hurricane’ and ‘There are Lines’ are particularly memorable – being so rock infused as they are, while there is still room for sentimentality with songs such as ‘When Love Comes’ and ‘We All Need a Hero’, all fitting into the story neatly.

The script also gets the audience to think more deeply about our own ideas of justice and quite literally taking the law into our own hands – where do we all draw the line? There feels like an almost philosophical element to the story that keeps you engaged and thinking about the themes being raised consistently – but without being heavy handed about it. It is never clear who to root for and you are left to make your own judgements about each of the characters.

As a concert production, directed and choreographed with great flair by Nick Winston, it is self-assured and confident (despite the occasional sound issue that made it difficult in places on the night I went to hear at times) that it feels like a full production in many ways. Justin Williams’s multi layered set design having a manga design feel about it and used effectively throughout is impressive considering this was only a concert production, while Ben Cracknell’s lighting design is wonderfully precise and enhances the electrifying aspect to the production.

There are plenty of strong performances throughout to be enjoyed as well, from Joaquin Pedro Valdes as Light, highlighting the complexities of the character with ease, Aimie Atkinson offering a suitably ethereal performance as Rem to Adam Pascal’s playful and amusing take on Ryuk as well as Dean John Wilson’s performance as the mysterious L – this is quite a cast that has been put together (with some changes for the Lyric Theatre run).

Overall, this is an intriguingly dark musical that deserves a longer life in the West End – beyond its runs at the London Palladium and the Lyric Theatre.

By Emma Clarendon

Death Note the Musical will run at the Lyric Theatre from the 7th to the 10th September. You can book tickets here.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐


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