MetroStage and Musicals: Made For Each Other

December 4, 2008

By Jeanne Theismann

 

S’Wonderful, S’Marvelous, that MetroStage has reunited with Jimi Ray Malary in its latest musical production Isn’t It Romantic?, a cabaret-style tribute to some of the greatest love songs ever written.

Featuring more than 30 songs from composers such as Jerome Kern, Richard Rogers and Lorenze Hart, and George and Ira Gershwin, Isn’t It Romantic? marks Malary’s third appearance at MetroStage, following his successful turns in King of Cool: The Life and Music of Nat King Cole, and Ellington: The Life and Music of the Duke

Written and directed by David Koch, the creative genius and writer behind the Cole and Ellington shows, Malary brings his smooth elegance and style to a script that takes the audience on a journey through the various highs and lows of love. 

From infatuation to breaking up and making up again, Koch showcases timeless tunes such as “All the Things You Are”, “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off”, “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and “Our Love is Here to Stay.”

Originally a solo show when it first premiered at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Koch decided his Romeo needed a Juliet and rewrote the script to include jazz vocalist Lori Williams.

With all the glamour and sophistication of a bygone era, the duo are a delight to watch as they portray a couple who ultimately survive the heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking stages of romance.

Malary, whose effortless command of the stage echoes that of a young Nat King Cole, delivers a solid and swoon-inducing performance on a range of songs, from the mesmerizing ballad “My Funny Valentine,” to the more upbeat “That’s Why The Lady Is A Tramp.” 

Williams, who last appeared at MetroStage in All Night Strut, steps into the show almost tentatively at first, her role slowly building as her voice is allowed to soar with her sizzling Ella Fitzgerald-style scatting and tender duets with Malary.

Sharing the stage with Malary and Williams is the impressive jazz trio under the expert musical direction of pianist William Knowles. Knowles, a Helen Hayes Award winner for his musical direction of Dinah Was at Arena Stage, is joined by Greg Holloway on drums and the innovative Yusef Chisholm on bass.  

The veteran jazz musicians not only provide the music for the show, they provide a realistic element as Artistic Director Carolyn Griffin transforms the converted lumber warehouse into an intimate Harlem cabaret.

With Art Deco sets based on the original production designs of Susannah M. Barnes and café tables set in front of the stage, the audience is transported back to a time when music was considered the language of love.

While Isn’t It Romantic is more music than theater, the enduring popularity of the score makes this a perfect opportunity for theatergoers to get acquainted with some of the world’s most celebrated songwriters of the past while enjoying some of the finest musical talent around today.

Whether you’re looking for love or simply looking to escape the holiday bustle and enjoy an evening of music that transcends time, don’t miss the enchanting combination of Malary and Williams in Isn’t It Romantic?

Isn’t It Romantic? is playing now through December 21 at MetroStage, 1201 North Royal Street. Show times are Thursday and Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 5 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., and Sunday at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. For tickets or more information, visit www.metrostage.org or call 703-548-9044.