Death Note in Concert
It seems like there were 2 kinds of people at the London Palladium last night, those that have heard of Death Note and its huge following originating in Manga and those like me who wanted to see what Frank Wildhorn and his team had come up with.
For those like me who don’t know much about the show or it’s history the musical is based on one of the best selling manga of all time. The story tells of Light who finds a ‘Death Note’ which has been dropped by a Shinigami (essentially a Japanese God of Death) named Ryuk. Light discovers that when he writes a name into this book then they die. Light soon realises that he can use the Death Note to rid the world of criminals but as his kill list grows so does the spotlight and he becomes known as ‘Kira’ and a detective L begins a relentless campaign to discover his identity.
Whilst the show is clearly rooted in manga and set firmly in Japan the story itself transcends that and has a universal appeal with the themes of justice and playing god really gave food for thought. The excerpts we saw from book by Ivan Menchell were brilliantly written and whilst there was a lot to cram into one show it kept me on my toes and eager to find out what would happen at the next twist and turn. At times the pace was even a little too fast to fully understand the weight of what happening or what this meant for the bigger picture.
The music by Frank Wildhorn is extremely varied from ballads such as ‘I’ll Only Love You More,’ to huge rock numbers such ‘Where Is The Justice,’ and I left wanting to hear a cast recording, which can only be a positive sign. The only thing that let the music and book down was the fact that there were some sound issues, with late mic pickups or the balance being off so that I struggled to hear some of the vocals or the dialogue, often at key points which made following intricacies of the plot harder. I did see the opening night of the run so the chances are that this will be ironed out for future performances.
Whilst the show was billed as a concert version however to call it that certainly undersold it and I wold not have been disappointed with the costumes, staging or the choreography if this was billed as the full version. The set design by Justin Williams makes a huge impact the moment you sit down and the multi levels across the stage mean that the action could easily flow from one scene to the next whilst maintaining the feel of a cat and mouse game.
This was a cast full of exceptional talent. Playing Light was Joaquin Pedro Valdes and his archenemies L was played by Dean John Wilson. Valdes eerily calm and calculated composer as Light contrasted brilliantly with Wilson’s energy and his unconventional physicality. Meanwhile Frances Mayli McCann took on the role of Misa, the wide eyed pop princess and the audience easily brought into her pop star status symbol as well as her softer side. Adam Pascall and Aimie Atkinson played Ryuk and Rem, the 2 Shinigami watching over the ‘Kira.’ Atkinson brought an ethereal element to her portrayal of Rem, dressed completely in white, her presence mesmerised the audience, in particular during her stunning ‘When Love Comes.’ Adam Pascal in contrast was dressed in all black with a mischievous and Machiavellian manner, perfect for the role of Ryuk.
The ensemble take on numerous roles from fellow students at school with Light, to police officers, FBI agents, backing dancers and more. It was also wonderful to see the shows heritage honoured with the majority of the cast of Asian descent.
It was clear that much of the audience was familiar with the source material last night and the applause after each number nearly raised the roof however even for those unfamiliar with ‘Death Note,’ it is a show which stands it own feet; an intriguing book, powerful score, interesting staging and a top notch cast. Now where do we start the petition for a full version?
Death Note runs for 3 performances at the Palladium and then at the Lyric Theatre from the 7-10 September. You can purchase tickets for the run at the Lyric here.