Jesse Tyler Ferguson theatre roles we love
Discover all the highlights from the award-winning star's stage career.
Most people know Jesse Tyler Ferguson as a screen star — he's certainly got the awards to show for it, having amassed four Screen Actors Guild Awards and five Emmy nominations for playing Mitchell Pritchett on Modern Family. But did you know he's got a long theatre resume? He's appeared in nearly as many plays and musicals as TV shows in a variety of venues: on Broadway, off Broadway, and on the West Coast. Fittingly for a famous sitcom star, he usually takes on comedic roles, complete with photo-worthy facial expressions.
His latest Broadway venture is in Take Me Out, Richard Greenberg's award-winning play about a Major League Baseball player who comes out as gay. Ferguson stars as business major Mason Marzac alongside Grey's Anatomy's Jesse Williams and Suits's Patrick J. Adams. Before you catch him on stage this spring (just in time for baseball season), take a look back at the highlights from his 25-year career as a New York theatre MVP.
On the Town
Ferguson made his Off-Broadway debut and his Broadway debut in the same show. When On the Town — a classic musical romp about sailors finding whirlwind love in New York — got revived in New York for the second time, the show went up at Central Park's Delacorte Theater in 1997. Ferguson starred as the sailor Chip, and the production made enough waves that it got a Broadway transfer. When On the Town docked at the Gershwin Theatre in 1998, Ferguson was on deck to reprise his role. He's pictured above with Lea DeLaria, who's also appearing on Broadway in 2022 in POTUS.
The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee
How do you spell B-R-O-A-D-W-A-Y S-T-A-R? The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee is the show that truly put Ferguson on the theatre map, as he got a 2005 Drama League Award nomination for playing Leaf Coneybear. Like On the Town, Ferguson first joined that show for its Off-Broadway premiere with Second Stage, and he transferred to Broadway with it. He and the rest of the Broadway cast also won a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Ensemble Performance.
Shakespeare in the Park
Ferguson was on a Shakespeare kick in the 2000s, returning to the Delacorte to appear in a string of the Bard's plays for The Public Theater's Shakespeare in the Park series. His first gig was as Flute in A Midsummer Night's Dream in 2010, his last as Trinculo in The Tempest, and he appeared in The Merchant of Venice, The Winter's Tale, and The Comedy of Errors (pictured above) in between. Merchant and Winter's played in repertory, so Ferguson had to juggle his roles in both of those at once on alternating days!
Ferguson has enjoyed plenty of theatrical success on the opposite coast. The Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles is known for its star-studded productions of mega-musicals, and Ferguson has appeared in not one, but two of them. The first was Mel Brooks's The Producers in 2012, in which Ferguson starred as Leo Bloom (a role that got fellow stage and screen great Matthew Broderick a Tony nomination some years earlier). In 2015, he returned to the Hollywood Bowl to play Sir Robin in Spamalot.
Ferguson's other award-winning theatre role was in Fully Committed, his most recent Broadway outing before Take Me Out. The 2016 solo show featured him as Sam, the overworked manager of a trendy restaurant's reservation line. He also played all the irate celebrities, socialites, business execs, and socialites who would do and say anything to land a prime table. He won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Solo Performance for his *chef's kiss* acting.
The last time Ferguson appeared in New York theatre was in 2018, when he starred in Log Cabin at Playwrights Horizons. Set in 2015, the play is about a group of gay and lesbian couples, newly granted the legal right to marry, whose eyes are opened to the still-long road to equality by a transgender friend. Ferguson played Ezra, the husband of Obie Award winner Phillip James Brannon's Chris. A New York Times reviewer said the character reminded him of Ferguson's most famous role: Modern Family's Mitchell Pritchett.
Take Me Out
In 2022, Ferguson is stepping back up to the Broadway plate in the baseball-centric, Tony Award-winning drama Take Me Out. His character, Mason Marzac, is the only one not a Major League player or coach — but upon meeting the newly-out center fielder Darren Lemming (played by Jesse Williams), he quickly becomes a baseball fanatic now that he sees his gay identity represented in the sport. Mason is the comic relief of this tense show, and Ferguson knocks every moment out of the park. We'd expect nothing less from this versatile theatrical all-star.
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