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LA Theater Review

Paradise Lost: Shadows and Wings

Boston Court thrives on taking big artistic risks, and this unconventional world-premiere musical is certainly bold. The highly imaginative piece melds a tragicomic fable reminiscent of classic Greek mythology with contemporary vibes, enriching the brew with Japanese anime-styled film segments. Added to these artful elements are diverse musical styles -- operatic, rock, Broadway, electronic techno, Asian drumming -- and eclectic choreographic motifs, including graceful martial-arts sequences. The result is a thrillingly original creation that defies pat categorization. That this visceral experience supports a stimulating cerebral narrative -- Beckett meets Euripides -- is all the more impressive.

Composer-librettist-co-lyricist Eric Whitacre and co-lyricist David Noro単a found a simpatico collaborator in director Michael Michetti, who tells the larger-than-life story in audacious strokes, combining theatrical crafts into an enthralling entertainment, seamlessly integrating moods ranging from tragic to giddy. Exploring themes of the afterlife, the inevitability of war, and familial betrayal, the play seems very loosely inspired by John Milton's epic 17th-century poem Paradise Lost. In an unspecified era, the children in a civilization of angels had their wings removed and are banished to a hidden refuge by their parents, supposedly to protect them from constant wars. Yet the children's fervent desire to escape and their inevitable power struggles lead to battles, and their plight looks even bleaker when the motives of the parents come into question.

The gifted cast rises to the challenges, beautifully serving the lovely and complex score, mastering the physical demands of the dances and vigorous action, and bringing the intriguing characters to life. As the two focal characters -- the group leader Logos and his restless, determined sister, Exstasis -- Dan Callaway and Hila Plitmann are brilliant, eliciting strong empathy and singing gorgeously. As Extasis' good friend Fervio, Daniel Tatar makes a masterful transition from a troublemaking rogue to an emotionally devastated soul in the searing ballad "All Alone." Among other standouts in the beautifully balanced ensemble are Rodolfo Nieto, Kevin Odekirk, Juli Robbins, and Marie M. Wallace.

Greg Chun's music direction is exemplary; ditto Bubba Carr's choreography and Caleb Terray's fight choreography. The designs of Tom Buderwitz (set), Soojin Lee (costumes), and Steven Young (lighting) are inspired, and the animated sequences credited to Kirk Hanson, Lyn Gaza, and Michael Manning are magnificent. Considering the recent onslaught of new musicals derived from formulaic films (The Wedding Singer, Legally Blonde), this invigorating new work is a godsend.

Presented by and at Theatre@Boston Court,

70 N. Mentor Ave., Pasadena.

Thu.-Sat. 8 p.m., Sun. 2 p.m. Jul. 28-Sep. 2.

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