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Millennial Theatre Company brings the razzle dazzle with ‘Chicago’

YOUNGSTOWN — What an astounding collection of talent Millennial Theatre Company assembled for its production of “Chicago” at Ford Family Recital Hall.

The staging of the John Kander / Fred Ebb / Bob Fosse musical, presented by MTC in partnership with Sunrise Entertainment, is filled with powerhouse voices, slinky dance moves and all the razzle dazzle one expects from the popular musical.

The revival currently in New York is the second-longest-running musical in Broadway history, in part through stunt casting and the endless stream of celebrities that have filled the roles of murderous dames Velma Kelly and Roxie Hart, sleazy attorney Billy Flynn and prison matron Mamma Morton.

The songs don’t necessarily need great singers to make them work. (Richard Gere certainly wasn’t cast for his vocal chops in the Oscar-winning film version.)

Director Joe Asente and music director Savannah Florkowski didn’t need to simplify those songs for this cast.

Rachel Ruggieri and Rosie Bresson are sexy and conniving as Velma and Roxie, respectively, working well together and shining on their solo numbers.

For those who’ve only heard Gere sing “All I Care About” and “Razzle Dazzle,” Landon Talbert will be a revelation. He shows off the vocal possibilities of those songs and displays the manipulative smarminess of Flynn.

Sydney Thomas is another vocal standout as Mamma Morton on “When You’re Good to Mamma” as is T. Hanes as Mary Sunshine on “A Little Bit of Good.”

Tylor Zuniga plays Roxie’s easy-to-overlook husband Amos, but there’s no way Zuniga will go unnoticed with the way he performs “Mr. Cellophane.” One of the strengths of the “Chicago” score is how the songs define and illuminate the characters; they’re not just pretty tunes that interrupt the story. No one does a better job than Zuniga at simultaneously displaying his vocal skills and honing in on the essence of his character.

Frankly, there isn’t a weak link in the ensemble.

Out of sheer necessity in nonprofessional theater, choreography tends to be simplified to suit the abilities of the performers. There’s little evidence of that in Makayla McIntosh’s choreography.

Some of the moves have that precise, in-unison execution that audiences associate with Bob Fosse musicals, but McIntosh also creates the feel of that style without the rigid demands of it by having her dancers executing complementary, but not identical, moves. It allows her choreography to play to the individual dancers’ strengths while still creating a cohesive look.

Those singers and dancers are accompanied by an eight-member pit orchestra that are on stage in a stripped-down set that incorporates the bandstand into the action.

The only problem with opening night is that talented pit orchestra was way too loud. The leads generally could be heard over the band because their mics were cranked to the max, but the mics for a couple of supporting roles were pushed to the point of distortion, and there were chunks of dialogue that were lost entirely.

It’s a fixable problem, and hopefully it is before the end of its four-show run. This production is too good for the audience to miss one bit of it.

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