Jesse Tyler Ferguson Starred as Over 40 Characters
On July 31, 2016, Fully Committed is to play its final performance of the Broadway run. It began previews on April 1, 2016 ahead of an opening night on April 25, 2016. A one-man show starring Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Fully Committed takes place in a high-class restaurant with hyperbolically demanding customers. Ferguson plays Sam, the reservations clerk forced to manage three ringing phones among the demands of his supervisors, over his shoulder, and his family, ringing on his cell phone in his pocket. In the meantime, Ferguson also plays every single one of these callers, with his pliant voice switching smoothly between such characters as the maître d’, the chef, the assistant to Gwyneth Paltrow, and many other socialites and demanding, entitled customers. While Fully Committed first premiered in 1999, foodie culture had not developed to anywhere near the levels it has now reached, and neither had the prevalence of such increasingly overpriced dining experiences. Also, with more recognition in the mainstream media regarding income inequality, the jokes that carelessly bowled over audiences in 1999 might sat slightly more sourly now, at least according to some reviewers such as Charles Isherwood in The New York Times. In any case, the show has had a fairly successful run with a string of ebullient reviews, and the chance to showcase a tour-de-force performance for Ferguson.
The marketplace of Broadway is a very particular beast. If you can’t be the biggest thing on Broadway, it’s best to be the smallest. For instance, large musicals such as The Lion King and Wicked sell brilliantly all year round in their giant theatres due to the level of spectacle and brand name recognition that each now carries. For non-musicals, it is usually necessary to headline the cast with a major Hollywood star; a B-list actor will not do, and even some A-list stars are not enough to carry certain productions into financial success. However, one-man shows are an exception to this star power rule, due to the very low running costs of mounting a show each week that only has one performer. Even if this performer, like Jesse Tyler Ferguson, isn’t an Oscar winning household name, he is a well-known television actor (mostly from “Modern Family”), and the light-hearted comedic nature of the show is an enticing treat for those theatregoers looking for a show that is easy to digest. Still, with Fully Committed, you also get the benefit of the multiplicity of characters portrayed by one individual, which is its own version of spectacle, but in a more financially feasible production.
Middling Ticket Sales Throughout the Run
Nevertheless, Fully Committed was never fully sold out. Over the 18 weeks of the run, the show’s highest gross to date took place in the week ending July 3, 2016, when it brought in $430,791, which represents 54.35% of its gross potential. Over the course of the run, the average percentage reached of gross potential was only 49.31%. Though this was not likely enough for the producers to recoup their initial capitalization, it was enough to maintain the show on its feet throughout the run, without having to close early. Again, this is due mainly to the low running costs of producing a show each week that has only one actor. With the actors’ union, Equity, stipulating minimum rates for Broadway performers, the fewer the actors in a show, the exponentially lower the weekly running costs will be. In the case of Fully Committed, though the investors will not likely be paid back their investments, the show was a fun revival of a comedic favorite that has now had a chance to reach a wider audience.