Top Chicago area talent shines in ’Jersey Boys’ at Mercury Theater

Riveting production captures story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons

"Jersey Boys" extended through July 28 at Mercury Theater in Chicago.

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“Big Girls Don’t Cry.” “Sherry.” “Who Loves You.” “Walk Like a Man.” “Dawn (Go Away).” “My Eyes Adored You.” “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night).” “Working My Way Back to You.” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.”

If you remember and love those songs from 1990 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees the Four Seasons, and especially if you’ve never seen “Jersey Boys,” the musical about the group, you now have a chance to see an excellent production on Chicago’s north side. To quote from one of the songs featured in “Jersey Boys,” you’ll want these actors to “stay … just a little bit longer” when the show comes to a close.

"Jersey Boys" extended through July 28 at Mercury Theater in Chicago, with Michael Metcalf as Frankie Valli.

When it comes to jukebox musicals – stage shows that feature the music of a popular performer, group or composer – there are few that have achieved the success of “Jersey Boys,” an entertaining and often dramatic biography of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. The musical, which was nominated for eight Tony Awards and won four – including Best Musical – ran on Broadway for more than 4,600 performances between November 2005 and January 2017. After national tours made stops in downtown Chicago four times in the last dozen years, Mercury Theater Chicago now has the first built-in-Chicago production – and it’s truly outstanding.

Directors L. Walter Stearns and Brenda Didier have assembled an amazing cast of 13 to tell this story, with Michael Metcalf delivering a tremendously impressive performance as Frankie Valli, who matures before our eyes, starting out as a shy New Jersey teenager with a fantastic voice but gradually shirking – or tackling – adult responsibilities. Adrian Aguilar is the experienced band member, Tommy DeVito, who sees the innate talent in Francesco Castelluccio (Valli’s real name), and senses that with some seasoning and teaching, Frankie could bring success to any band he’s part of.

"Jersey Boys" extended through July 28 at Mercury Theater in Chicago.

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The structure of “Jersey Boys” allows each band member to narrate the story of the group eventually known as the Four Seasons, beginning with DeVito, then intelligent, forward-looking composer/keyboardist Bob Gaudio (Andrew MacNaughton), then – in Act 2 – the mostly quiet bassist Nick Massi (Jason Michael Evans), and finally Valli. Each has a unique point of view, and the challenges each faces – ranging from gambling to crime to parental neglect to infidelity to alcohol – affect everyone in their orbit.

"Jersey Boys" extended through July 28 at Mercury Theater in Chicago.

A stereotypical and funny Jersey-style opening announcement (“I don’t wanna hear a peep out of your phones … Fuhgeddaboutit!”) could lead one to think this is a comedy, but occasional profanity-laced dialogue along with dramatic twists and turns – DeVito going to jail for six months early in the first act, for example – make it clear this is a musical drama. As stated in Mercury publicity, the show is recommended for those at least 12 years old, not younger.

If you’re on the fence and still have questions about whether to see this production, consider the following:

• All the songs listed at the beginning of this review, plus many more, are beautifully sung, thanks to the efforts of music directors Eugene Dizon and Linda Madonia, the latter also conducting and playing keyboard as part of a six-piece band visible behind frosted glass on the second level of the stage. The instrumentalists ably support the actors, never overpowering them.

• The nine other actors in this ensemble (Grant Alexander Brown, Adam Fane, Dan Gold, Carl Herzog, Eric A. Lewis, Maya McQueen, Jason Richards, Haley Jane Schafer and Kayla Shipman) each play multiple roles, imprinting their characters in our memories (like Fane as Bob Crewe, who took a chance on the group, recording their first big hit, “Sherry,” and Herzog as Gyp DeCarlo, a “connected” Jersey guy who can make problems go away).

• The relatively small stage and theater (only 280 seats) make it an intimate environment to enjoy actors/singers at the top of their craft. Video screens along the left edge of the stage and above the stage are used effectively to identify the setting of each scene (including 20 seemingly live black-and-white TV images of Metcalf, MacNaughton, Evans and Aguilar appearing on “The Ed Sullivan Show”).

With a newly extended closing date of July 28, you have part of two seasons to catch this Four Seasons story, so spring into action. Get your tickets now.

• Paul Lockwood is a communications consultant at Health Care Service Corporation (HCSC) in Chicago, as well as a local theater actor, singer, Grace Lutheran Church (Woodstock) and Toastmasters member, columnist and past president of TownSquare Players. He and his wife have lived in Woodstock for more than 23 years.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: “Jersey Boys”

WHERE: Mercury Theater Chicago, 3745 N. Southport Ave., Chicago

WHEN: Extended through July 28

INFORMATION: www.mercurytheaterchicago.com