Adrian Aguilar

April 2024 View more

By Mike Thomas

Playing a Jersey Boy in Chicago

Adrian Aguilar

Born in Naperville, Adrian Aguilar has made a name for himself on local stages and on Broadway. But perhaps no role has been as squarely in his wheelhouse as that of Tommy DeVito in the first-ever Chicago production of Jersey Boys. The story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is enjoying a two-month run at the Mercury Theater Chicago (3745 N. Southport Ave.) through May 19.

Not long before his debut in a role he was essentially born to play, Aguilar talked about his earliest influences, playing DeVito, and his history of full-frontal nudity.

Q: When did you discover your love of musicals?
A: When my brother and I were young—because my mom was a working mother and had nothing to do for two boys who were beating the hell out of each other in the summers—she put us in a camp called Laughing Rainbow Children’s Theater Camp, where we did a bunch of children’s shows like Annie and Peter Pan. She also used to supply my brother and I with illegal DVD bootlegs of Broadway shows, whether we wanted them or not. I don’t know where she got them, and she’s never told us. But she knew that we were never going to get to go see a Broadway show in New York with our family finances, so that was her way of trying to keep us in the loop and keep us educated about what was happening. I had a DVD of the original Jersey Boys cast, which I memorized. I’ve never actually seen it live. But this is a show that I’ve been absolutely obsessed with since it first came out because the role of Tommy DeVito is pretty much my shtick.

Q: When were you first exposed to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons?
A: I am a lifelong fan. I was always a really weird kid. When I was 12 or 13, I got a gift card to Coconuts [music store]. So I got a two-disc set of the Four Seasons’ greatest hits. I would play that on my little Discman and write down the lyrics, or what I thought were the lyrics, in a notebook. I’ve always been an old soul. I grew up in the wrong times. I always tell people that if it’s a musician or a song that’s before 1979, I’ll know it.

Q: You’re also a certified personal trainer. How did you get into fitness?
A: I actually kind of fell into it to combat depression. I was really struggling with depression in college, and my girlfriend at the time, now my wife, said, “You’ve got to figure this out. You’ve got to see a therapist, maybe get some medication.” I also Googled “how to help depression,” and the internet said, “Make sure you’re sleeping well and eating well and getting lots of exercise.” So that was sort of my gateway into it. And it changed my life so profoundly that I decided that I wanted to make sure that I was helping others find it for the same reason. I don’t know that it’s necessary to be in fantastic shape to do certain roles. Most of them are not as hard as they look. But I have definitely knowingly and purposely exploited my physique for many roles. I’ve been naked on almost every Chicago stage. And when I was in the cast of Rocky on Broadway, they put together a now-infamous naked photo shoot of four or five guys in the cast to try to drum up ticket sales. We had boxing wraps on our hands and nothing else. [The nudity] doesn’t bother my wife at all, except when I occasionally go, “Honey, technically you married a stripper because people pay me to take my clothes off.” She doesn’t like that one so much.

Q: What are the challenges of playing DeVito?
A: The only thing that I’m worried about is the vocal workload, because my voice has never been my strongest suit. I can sing a lot without too much vocal damage. But the more I have to talk or speak or yell in a show, that’s what makes my voice incredibly tired. So the biggest challenge is just the workload and trying to figure out when I need to go on vocal rest so I can keep my chops up throughout a potentially a long run.

Q: If your voice wears out, you can always strip.
A: Yeah. I’ve got to build it into the show. Whatever brings the tickets.


Photo: Brandon Dalquist