‘Some weird fun amid the cherry blossom chaos’ – Death Note: The Musical
26th August 2023

The theatre scene is turning Japanese (I really think so). The soon-to-be-revived My Neighbour Totoro led the way with bungalow-sized puppets; next up is a stage version of one of the greatest of all Japanese animated films, Spirited Away.

But now, a Faustian story of techno vigilantism that combines monochrome morality – bad people who escape justice punished by any other means – with techno myth.

Death Note is based on the enormously successful manga series in which high school student Light (Joaquin Pedro Valdes) comes across a notebook dropped accidentally on purpose by god-like entity Ryuk (Adam Pascal) to test humans in their quest for justice.

When Light discovers that he can kill people simply by writing their name in the book he opts to rid the world of evildoers. He becomes a serial killer of killers.

Pursued by the police, the FBI and the mysterious detective L (Dean John Wilson) – “A narcissist with bipolar disorder” – things change from black and white to a darker shade of grey.

READ MORE ‘What was hilariously camp has a depressing vulgarity’ – La Cage aux Folles

Think Death Wish with divine intervention. Musically, it is a curate’s egg; with the exception of one mutated waltz They’re Only Human, Frank Wildhorn’s tunes and Jack Murphy’s lyrics are rousing AOR anthems of no great distinction.

The idea of graphic novel melodrama is almost Victorian in concept – a kind of techno Penny Dreadful – and the leading performers are fine though I could do without the sub Cyndi Lauper pop star whose songs go in one ear and out the other like greased ferrets.

An undeniably offbeat spectacle that delivers some weird fun amid the cherry blossom chaos.  

Death Note, London Palladium Lyric Theatre until September 10, Tickets: 0330 333 4812

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