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Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2008

Journey of Love

Theater Review

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   Ah, love. It has it ups and downs, twists and turns. And in the arc of romance, the despair of heartbreak can unexpectedly bring about the promise of new love.

  Isn't It Romantic follows the journey of a modern relationship centered on the timeless music of composers George and Ira Gershwin, Richard Rodgers, Lorenz Hart and Jerome Kern. Playwright/Director David Hunter Koch has created the songbook as a musical revue, which opened last weekend at the Rep's Stackner Cabaret. Singer/performer Jimi Ray Malary guides the audiences down memory lane and back again over the course of 90 minutes with the backing of a trio of talented jazz musicians featuring music director/pianist William Knowles, bassist Don Linke and drummer Scott Napoli.

  "Romance was alive and well and in the stacks of my old albums," Malary recalls before launching into a medley of hits, featuring snippets of such memorable songs as "S' Wonderful," "This Can't Be Love" and a particularly stirring version of the Rodgers and Hart tune, "My Funny Valentine."

  This being opening weekend, there were a few stones in the road on that journey of romance, like a missed cue in "The Lady is a Tramp." But Malary really loosened up by the second act, so when he forgot some lyrics to "A Fine Romance," his spontaneous laughter had the audience rolling right along with him.

   Malary's clear, rich baritone handles the 35-plus song set well, be it pulling out the emotion in "But Not for Me" and "Our Love is Here to Stay" to the upbeat playfulness of "Let's Call the Whole Thing Off" and "A Woman is a Sometime Thing."

  Isn't It Romantic brings us full circle in that never-ending journey to love.

  Runsthrough Nov. 2 at the Rep's Stackner Cabaret.

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