- The Washington Times - Friday, November 28, 2008

With the exception of WWE wrestlers and Amy Winehouse, everyone is looking for that touch of class. You couldn’t be in more chic company than Jimi Ray Malary and Lori Williams, the honey-voiced stars of the musical revue “Isn’t It Romantic?” classing up the joint at MetroStage.

Mr. Malary has engaged local audiences before with his supple baritone and elegantly reserved manner, having previously played Duke Ellington and Nat King Cole at MetroStage. He is joined this time by jazz vocalist Miss Williams, who brings playful scatting and a more contemporary air to this melodious look at love found, savored and lost.

“Isn’t It Romantic?” features the music of George and Ira Gershwin, Jerome Kern, and Rodgers and Hart, played with assured swing by pianist and arranger William Knowles, bassist Yusef Chisholm and drummer Greg Holloway. They are a dream jazz trio, articulating the notes in a way that is at once relaxed and polished.

Mr. Malary specializes in slow-building ballads, imbuing them with emotion and poignancy, as in the lingering treatment he gives to “Isn’t It Romantic?”, the melancholy tinge of “My Funny Valentine,” and the care he brings to “Where or When” and “But Not for Me.” Although he does manage to cut loose from time to time (“A Woman Is a Sometime Thing,” “Treat Me Rough”) he leaves the swinging to Miss Williams for the most part. She delivers a sultry “I Didn’t Know What Time It Was” and a scatty “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered” and brings the right amount of boisterous wit to “Thou Swell.” The pair’s duets are fun and free, from “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” to a salsa-accented “Our Love Is Here to Stay.”

The plot of the show is more slender than one of Ginger Rogers’ silk gowns, of course, and the observations uttered by the performers rarely encapsulate the essence of romance the way the lyrics do. Still, you’ll feel more sophisticated just by sharing a room with such refined company.

“Isn’t It Romantic?” puts you in a dreamy holiday mood without a single reference to shopping or Santa. Isn’t that the perfect show for the season?

RATING: **1/2

WHAT: “Isn’t It Romantic?” written and directed by David Hunter Koch, musical arrangements by William Knowles

WHERE: MetroStage, 1201 N. Royal St., Alexandria

WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 5 and 8:30 p.m. Saturdays, 3 and 7 p.m. Sundays. Through Dec. 21.

TICKETS: $40 to $45

PHONE: 703/548-9044

WEB SITE: www.metrostage.org

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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