First published on 18 Apr 2012. Updated on 16 Jul 2012.
Moonshadow: The Musical tells the story of a young boy who sets out into a world of perpetual night on a journey of self-discovery.
Coming from Sweden, the beauty of the scenario was immediately apparent to director Anders Albien. “It is spectacular,” says Albien. “In the north of Sweden, in moonlight the snow is not white, but blue. The whole world is blue.”
Yusuf Islam, the artist formerly known as Cat Stevens, credits the artwork of Turkish illustrator Dõgan Ur as having inspired his vision for Moonshadow; images of a world suffused in the same vibrant blue which Albien describes, both romantic and nightmarish.
The story itself – which bears similarities to an Inuit tale – reflects elements of Islam’s own life, with what Albien calls a spiritual subtext. “Cat Stevens’ songs have always been small stories in themselves. When you stick them together, it goes in interesting places.”
The show features many Cat Stevens classics, but also newer material, which helps structure the narrative. In all there are around 40 songs.
It was 2003 when Albien came across the project. “Nine years is a long time,” he says, “but it takes a long time to get a production up to international standard.”
After his 2009 concert in Melbourne, Islam had started tossing around the idea of premiering his musical in Australia. “So many talented people,” Albien says, reeling off the names of Stephen Amos the musical director, Trudy Dalgleish the lighting designer, and ENESS, a Melbourne company handling the projections.
“And yet," laughs Albien of Melbourne hosting the world premiere, "my first reaction was to wonder if Yusuf had gone mad!”