It’s the theater equivalent of boot camp — spending 90 minutes alone onstage channeling some 40 different characters in some 40 different voices, without a single break in the action. So after Jesse Tyler Ferguson wraps up a 17-week run starring on Broadway in the one-man show “Fully Committed” Sunday night, you’d figure he’d be due for a week on the beach.
Instead he’ll get six hours on a plane.
Shooting for the eighth season of “Modern Family,” the hit comedy featuring Ferguson as the lovably uptight lawyer Mitchell Pritchett, begins Wednesday. So instead of grabbing some well-earned R&R, Ferguson will turn around Monday and head straight for the airport to fly back to Los Angeles.
“That’s my vacation — my flight home,” he says. “I’ll sleep, I’ll read a book, then I’ll have a day to readjust before I have to be on the set Monday.”
Doing eight solo shows a week “is the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” says Ferguson, who plays a harried phone reservationist at a white-hot restaurant. “I thought it would get easier, but the exhaustion level has actually increased.”
In addition to the mental strain of juggling dozens of characters, “it’s the physicality of it,” says Ferguson, who lost 15 pounds during the run. “I’m sweating so much that by the end I look like I’ve taken a bath in my costume.”
To survive the grind called for a spartan regimen — no post-show cocktails, plenty of vocal rest, eating well. Still, it was worth the fatigue and the missed martinis. “I’m a theater kid at heart, so to be in a one-man show on Broadway with my name on the marquee — it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
It was also a chance to perform for some heroes, including Andrea Martin, Bernadette Peters, Nathan Lane and Patti Lupone, all of whom came by to see Ferguson’s star turn. Other audience members included Mario Batali, Tina Fey and Chelsea Clinton, “who was a few months from giving birth. She told me she’d wanted something short and funny because she couldn’t sit for too long.”
Ferguson, who keeps an apartment in Gramercy with his husband, figures he may be back in New York, and back onstage, next summer: “Maybe Shakespeare in the Park, or something commercial. We’ll see what happens.”
Not another one-man show, though.
“I need to have some company.”