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Death Note the Musical - our review of the concert at the London Palladium

Guest post by Alex James

Death Note has been around for a relatively long time; the Manga starting in 2003 and since then has had an anime series, five Japanese live action films, and one live action film made by Netflix and now a musical. The musical was first announced in 2013, and had its first performances put on in Japan and South Korea in 2015, it is now getting its first English performance as a show outside of its’ US workshop and concept album versions. This was supposed to be an ‘in concert’ performance at the London Palladium but the staging and performance, which were as near to a full musical as you can get, make me hope that Death Note gets a proper run as I was very impressed.

Bookshelf with 5 Manga Death Note books
My bookshelf with Death Note Manga

I am a pretty big Death Note fan, having seen the first two Japanese films based on it, the anime series and do have the Manga as well, so I knew what the plot would be, who the characters are, how they’d act, but I was going into the London Palladium expecting to enjoy the show. Other audience members clearly were too, many of them in cosplay.

Death Note is the story of Light Yagami, a high school student who gets his hands on a book called a Death Note, a book used by Shinigami (Japanese gods of death) that was dropped to earth by a particularly bored one called Ryuk who more or less just wants to see what’ll happen.

Light (played by Joaquin Pedro Valdes) soon starts to use it to kill criminals that he feels have escaped justice, attracting the attention of a mysterious detective called ‘L’ (played by Dean John Wilson) and an admirer after he’d killed the man who had killed her family, the pop star Misa (played by Frances Mayli McCann.) who gets her own Death Note and Shinigami, Rem (played by Aimie Atkinson).

Light dressed in a black suit standing with L dressed in pale colours
Joaquin Pedro Valdes (Light) and Dean John Wilson (L) Photo credit Mark Senior

The main dynamic at play is between Light and L, especially as L seems to be able to continually trick Light into giving away more and more information about just what he’s been doing. The sing-off between the two of them ‘Playing his Game’ was one of the most powerful vocals of the musical. On the night we went to see the show, the first night to be fair, there were a few hitches with the microphones during some of the songs and at times we couldn’t really hear that clearly what the main singers were singing or the backing singers were coming through more clearly then the main one’s. But I am sure that was just a few first night hitches, especially since we went during what would probably have normally been the preview show. Due to adapting a Manga that lasts 12 volumes and an anime with over 30 episodes down into a two hour show there are a few plot elements that come across as fairly rushed, such as the dynamic between Light and L being more Frenemy. Or it seeming like Light very quickly falls into his God complex because of what he can do with the Death Note.

Songs I particularly enjoyed throughout the musical were the recurring songs ‘Where Is The Justice?’ and ‘Hurricane’, ‘Mortals and Fools’ and it’s reprise, the first time it’s sung as a duet between Misa and Rem, the second as a duet between Rem and Ryuk, another duet between Rem and Ryuk , ‘They’re Only Human’ and all of the duets between Light and L, particularly ‘Playing His Game’, as they play this game of metaphorical chess with each other, trying to beat the other. ‘I’m Ready’, sung by Misa was a great song as well, on the surface a seemingly cheery pop love song, but with the knowledge of it being dedicated to the person who’s been able to mysteriously kill criminals it comes across as an early sign of just how eager she is to be part of what was going on.

The actress who played Rem had an amazing singing voice, listening to any of the songs she had was a real treat.

Ryuk dressed in an imposing black outfit stand behind the schoolboy Light
Adam Pascal (Ryuk) and Joaquin Pedro Valdes (Light) Photo credit Mark Senior

Ryuk, steals the show any time he gets to talk, pretty much every line he got or anytime he interacted with someone in the cast got a laugh from the audience and Adam Pascal seemed like he was having a lot of fun with the role. A character motivated by his boredom and what would be most entertaining to him, the entire reason the story happens by dropping his Death Note down to earth. To Light’s disappointment it wasn’t so much being chosen to be an instrument of divine retribution but rather him being the person to find the book first. Needless to say I think it’s pretty fair to say that I did enjoy all of the songs, which mostly have a rock vibe, those one’s I have mentioned are the one’s I would consider my favourites.

The programme for the show has been printed Manga style, so you’ll be reading it from back to front. I went with my mother to see Death Note, she’s seen the first live action Japanese movies and the Netflix version, so she’s somewhat familiar with the story as well and she really enjoyed the show. She said that Ryuk looked like every man she fancied in the early 1980s!

Death Note is running at the London Palladium during August and at the Lyric Theatre during September, the Palladium tickets I believe are currently sold out, so anyone interested in seeing Death Note should book tickets for the September showings at the Lyric Theatre.

Transfer to the Lyric:

Lyric Theatre

Shaftesbury Avenue

London W1D 7ES

Thursday 7 September -

Sunday 11 September

at 7.30pm


Saturday 10 & Sunday 11 September at 2.30pm

running time:

2hrs 20 including interval

age recommendation: 12+

Tickets from £25

Olivier award-winner George Maguire, Jessica Lee, Carl Man, Boaz Chad and Patrick Munday are joining the cast of Death Note THE MUSICAL in Concert at the Lyric Theatre.

George Maguire will play Ryuk.

His West End roles include Buck Barrow in ‘Bonnie & Clyde’, Dave in ‘Sunny Afternoon’. He had the title role of The Whicker Man at The Watermill Theatre.

Jessica Lee will play Misa.

She is currently playing Kim in ‘Miss Saigon’ at Sheffield Crucible. Her West End shows include ‘Prince of Egypt’ and ‘Les Miserables’, and ‘Evita” (Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre).

Carl Man will be the Alternate L.

His West End roles include Romeo (1st cover) in ‘& Juliet’ and Fiyero (1st cover) in ‘Wicked’. He will be playing Fiyero in the upcoming ‘Wicked’ UK & Ireland tour.

Boaz Chad and Patrick Munday will join the ensemble.

The rest of the cast continuing from the three sold out performances next week at the London

Palladium includes Aimie Atkinson, Rachel Clare Chan, Christian Ray Marbella, Dean John-Wilson, Joaquin Pedro Valdes and an ensemble featuring Charlotte Coggin, Jade Copas, Eu Jin Hwang, Yojiro Ichikawa, Deena Kapadia, David Kar-Hing Lee, Jasmine Leung, Jojo Meredith, Marcel Li-Ping, Janine Somcio.

Creative team:

Director and Choreographer Nick Winston

Associate Director and Choreographer Alexzandra Sarmiento,

Costume Designer Kimie Nakano

Musical Supervisor Katy Richardson

Musical Director Chris Ma

Orchestrator Jason Howland

Designer Justin Williams

Lighting Designer Ben Cracknell

Sound Designer Ben Harrison

Casting Harry Blumenau

Artwork by Rebecca Pitt Creative

Producers Carter Dixon McGill Productions, Indie Theatrical, HoriPro Inc., Pinnacle Productions

in association with Greg A. DeLuca, Sharon Azrieli and Wild Yak Productions


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