Monday, July 16, 2012


Writers:                   Yusuf, Rachel Wagstaff and Anders Albien
Music:                     Cat Stevens/Yusuf
Director:                 Anders Albien.
Musical Director:  Stephen Amos

Reviewer:               Bill Stephens
Gemma-Ashley Kaplan (Lisa) Gareth Keegan (Stormy) and "Moonshadows" company

If you’re a fan of the songs of Cat Stevens, the prospect of hearing his music may well be sufficient for you to enjoy this show, which contains no fewer than 40 of his songs. You may however be a little surprised at how they’ve been shoe-horned into an unintelligible allegorical story set on a mythical dark planet of Alaylia, in a distant corner of the universe, where the sun never shines, birds never sing, and no one ever sees the light of day. Not a particularly promising setting for a musical.

Gareth Keegan plays the brash, Pippin-like character, Stormy, who, accompanied by a tall, rather odd minder, called Moonshadow (Jolyon James) sets out to find a better life. Predictably, and despite the warnings of Moonshadow, he falls into a series of traps along the way.  As played by Keegan, Stormy is so cocky and boneheaded that it’s difficult to feel any sympathy for him, and his happy ending seems somewhat ill-deserved.
Gemma-Ashley Kaplan 
Gemma-Ashley Kaplan is delightfully wistful as Stormy’s girlfriend Lisa, who has been promised by her father to the outlandishly vain Pat Mathew. Blake Bowden pulls out all stops as Pat Mathew, but to little effect, and oddly, despite the fact that she tells Stormy that she loves him, Lisa appears to   welcome the overtures of Pat Mathew - at least while he’s wooing her.

 Marney McQueen and Gareth Keegan

Marney McQueen as the cougar Princess Zeena has the best costume and the best time chewing up the scenery in her efforts to seduce Stormy.  

The songs are well sung and the show is quite lovely to look at, with excellent lighting and special effects. The large cast work hard to bring some meaning to the proceedings but the futuristic storyline, with its trite dialogue, underwritten characters and serious lack of dramaturgy , leaves many of  them resorting to “bread & butter” acting and inappropriate reactions. The mood of the show tended to move between serious narrative and absurd situations, making it difficult for the audience to know how to respond or become involved, and as a result the conclusion was more bemusing than inspiring as no doubt it was intended to be.
It’s hard to escape the feeling that having arrived at the central premise, the creatives of “Moonshadow” have cut and pasted ideas from any number of other musicals including “Hair”, “Wicked”, “Sweet Charity” and the previously mentioned “Pippin” to accommodate the songs.  

In his program note Yusuf mentions that he thought there was room in the global landscape of musicals for something a little bit different.   “Moonshadow” is certainly a little bit different, but needs a lot more work yet to make it cohesive and different enough to become the truly memorable musical experience it could be.

A Broadway season has already been announced for “Moonshadow”, so you still have time to  have a look at this show for yourself during its world premiere Melbourne season before it ends on Sunday August 5th.