Thursday, 31 May 2012

Moonshadow by Cat Stevens (Yusuf), May 31, 2012. **1/2

Music & Lyrics by Cat Stevens/Yusuf; Book by Yusuf, Rachel Williams & Anders Albien
Princess Theatre, Melbourne, May 31 to Sept, 2012
Reviewer: Kate Herbert
Stars: ** 1/2
Gareth Keegan as Stormy in Moonshadow

PURISTS CRAVING CAT STEVENS’ (AKA Yusuf) distinctive voice may be disappointed with his musical, Moonshadow, but its repertoire of his classic songs will satisfy many nostalgic Baby Boomers while its fantasy narrative and Tim Burtonesque design will delight their grandchildren.

On the imaginary planet Alaylia, the inhabitants live in cold darkness without sun or birdsong and with only the moon and precious balls of manufactured Ember to light their lives.

Young hero Stormy, played with youthful exuberance by Gareth Keegan, embarks on a quest to find a mythical world of light and joy, leaving his childhood sweetheart, Lisa (Gemma-Ashley Kaplan).

It’s is a classic hero’s journey combined with a Romeo and Juliet love story, with universal themes about overcoming adversity, good versus evil and light versus darkness.

However, the story, particularly on his journey is incoherent, the expository and laboured dialogue needs slashing, the attempts at humour are feeble, the pace and cueing are slow, and the capable actors sometimes look uncomfortable.

Yusuf’s original, timeless melodies and poignant lyrics provide the heart and soul and the glue for the narrative. The problem is that, there are too many songs (41) and many are only fragments that do not advance the story or characters.

The first inspiring and successful meld of song, character and narrative is Sally Bourne, as Stormy’s mother, singing a Wild World as a touching, mournful farewell to her son.

An impressive cast, directed by Anders Albien, choreographed by Yvette Lee and accompanied by Stephen Amos’s orchestrations, revisits the classic tunes including Moonshadow, How Can I Tell You I Love You, and Sad Lisa, which is sung by the warm, resonant-voiced Jolyon James as Moonshadow.
Keegan sings Can’t Keep It In as an anthem for youthful energy, while Kaplan sweetly sings the mournful, The First Cut Is The Deepest.

The two sing Remember the Days of the Old School Yard as a nostalgic, celebratory duet when, after years of enforced separation, these star-crossed lovers reunite.

Matthew and Son, performed by the energetic, young chorus, becomes a workers’ tune for those slaving in Matthew and Son’s factory.

The final rousing choruses of Moonshadow and Morning Has Broken provide the finale when Stormy returns to Alaylia.

The narrative of this jukebox musical is unfortunately a pale shadow of a Disney fairytale movie, so Yusuf’s music and the exuberant cast will have to carry the show.

By Kate Herbert 

Gareth Keegan  -Stormy
 Gemma-Ashley Kaplan - Lisa
Jolyon James -Moonshadow
Tony Cogin -Mr. Mangus
Robert Grubb-Mr. Hojja
Sally Bourne- Layla
Marney McQueen- Princess Zeena
Rodney Dobson- Mr. Matthew/Starlord

Director -Anders Albien
Music Director & Orchestration -Stephen Amo
Choreographer -Yvette Lee
Set design -Adam Gardnir
Costume -Harriet Oxley
Scenic Illustrator- Dogan Op
Shadow Illustrator -Silver Ant
Magic -Doug Tremlett

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