Trio, Trio Again: MetroStage?s song-musicals are getting old, but Malary and Williams are aces.

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“I don’t know,” said the critic wearily, “whether it’s even worth the effort to point out—yet again—that this thing MetroStage keeps doing isn’t really theater.” At which point the critic’s other half told him to hush and observed that it hadn’t exactly been a chore sitting through an hour and 10 minutes of Gershwin and Jerome Kern and Rodgers & Hart and so on, especially considering that the syrah from the cozy French place next door had turned out to be so pleasantly earthy. The critic pointed out, with a certain acerbity, that thirty-freakin’-one love songs might fairly be considered a bit much, even by the standards of moony-eyed sentimentalists like some we might mention, to which the ball and chain responded not verbally but with an expression that an impartial observer might describe as midway between “peevish” and “dangerous.” “What I meant,” said the critic, backpedaling desperately, “was that if you’re going to plunder the American Songbook for the best love songs ever, you might limit your choices to a dozen or two, so your audience actually gets a chance to hear more than a verse from each one.” The patient, kind, long-suffering beloved, always the glass-half-full one in the relationship, allowed that while it would indeed have been nice to hear how the evening’s star might develop a song across a bridge and a second verse, the squeeze-it-all-in approach had at least allowed the performers to showcase a few amusing ditties, like “Treat Me Rough,” that he hadn’t heard before. True, agreed the surly, unkind heathen of a critic, who grudgingly allowed that others (like the cynical lullaby “A Woman Is a Sometime Thing” from Porgy and Bess) had certainly seemed intriguingly different in the context of the evening’s…“What’s the word?” the critic broke off, resorting to his customary waspishness. “You can’t quite call it a story, that thin little relationship-arc thing that whatshisface kept doing with his sidekick in the patter between songs.” He was rummaging about for a sufficiently withering term when the boyfriend, who’d done some acting himself, noted with some asperity that the performers have names, dammit. And the critic was chastened, if not entirely reformed, and he resolved to let the record show that they are Jimi Ray Malary and Lori Williams. And that the one has a pleasant butterscotch baritone and the other knows her way around a scat-singing passage. And that the trio backing them up is reasonably eloquent, and that the surprising bossa-nova groove they lay down under the intro to “Our Love Is Here to Stay” might even be mildly inspired. And that in the big picture, Isn’t It Romantic? is an absolute trifle—but not, even to an irritable old crank like him, an entirely disagreeable one.