Review: Music Legends Meet Broadway Legacy in Mercury Theater’s Jersey Boys

Review by Row Light.

Jersey Boys is the origin story and evolution of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, a musical group from the Garden State that have had an enduring impact on American culture since their debut in the ‘60s. The show premiered in 2004 at La Jolla Playhouse in San Diego and hit Broadway the next year, enjoying an impressive 11-year run picking up Tonys, Drama Desk Awards, and even a Grammy. The book from Marshall Brickman and Rick Elice boasts enough profanity to make the show not so family-friendly (unless you talk like a pop culture family from Jersey). And despite the upbeat music and shiny production style, this show has an edge, with storylines featuring adultery, debt, and personal tragedy. The script’s narrative asides also provide intimate introductions to each original member of the Four Seasons: Frankie Valli (played by Michael Metcalf), Tommy DeVito (Adrian Aguilar), Nick Massi (Jason Michael Evans), and Bob Gaudio (Andrew MacNaughton). 

This production—co-directed by L. Walter Stearns and Brenda Didier—was evidently a labor of love, time, and dedication, and bringing the show to Chicago a decade-long dream, according to producer/co-director Stearns. Though small, the Mercury’s stage was a dynamic springboard for the high-energy cast, as they ran up and down stairs, crossed balconies, and fell in perfect step-ball-change with each other. 

Andrew MacNaughton, Jason Michael Evans,Michael Metcalf, Adrian Aguilar. Photo by Liz Lauren.

The set design shines, with factory-style windows that change color with lighting to the effect of stained glass. Of course, this production’s music and movement need to be precisely calculated to allow the performers to shine in their roles (and they did). Co-music directed by Eugene Dizon and Linda Madania and choreographed by the theater’s artistic director, Christopher Chase Carter, the production achieves an impressive flow for a show so early in its run. (Scenic design by Bob Knuth, lighting design by Denise Karzcewski, and sound design by Stefanie M. Senior.)

Just like the legendary group it showcases, these performers “put Jersey on the map.” As Tommy DeVito, Adrian Aguilar’s buoyant energy comes through every time he steps up to the mic. Aguilar makes it difficult to stay mad at bad boy Tommy, as his sharp dance moves and cheery head bobbing establish the performer’s star power. The show requires a vocal marathon from the actor playing Frankie Valli, and Michael Metcalf doesn’t disappoint. His bright tone and soaring range are dead ringers for the legendary crooner’s own, and Metcalf finds balance in his performance between Valli's innocence and intensity.

Adrian Aguilar, Michael Metcalf, Jason Michael Evans. Photo by Liz Lauren.

Jason Michael Evans nails the deadpan lines written for the group’s straight man Nick Massi, delivering a speech so perfectly particular about wet towels on the floor of a hotel bathroom that audiences might immediately clock his character as a Virgo (and confirmed: Massi was born September 19, 1927). As Bob Gaudio, the original group’s last addition, Andrew MacNaughton brings an energy all his own with a glossy musical theater-honed voice that gives Disney prince vibes.

It would also be criminal not to mention Adam Fane as Bob Crewe, the group’s producer and manager. His performance is the production’s comedic highlight, as he exudes camp and delivers dramatic face plays, mouthing along to songs including “Walk Like a Man” with the dedication of an all-in stage parent.

The production expertly showcases the Four Seasons’ high highs, like appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and American Bandstand, with a camera filming on stage and screens playing the broadcast back in black and white. Audiences experience iconic recording and songwriting sessions, as the group finds its vocal chemistry and learns to center young Frankie Valli’s star vocals. Of course, audiences also experience the group’s low lows, including fights, betrayal, and heartache. Audience members crooned during intermission, laughed raucously during both acts, and met the performers with a standing ovation. If opening night is any indication, the Mercury’s production of Jersey Boys is sure to see an exceptional run.

Jersey Boys at the Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport Ave., has been extended through July 28. Running time is 2.5 hours with one intermission. Get your tickets for $60-$90 here.

For more information on this and other plays, see theatreinchicago.com.

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