Ever wanted to meet Anna Wintour? This just may be your chance. Well, sort of.
Comedian Ryan Raftery is bringing his one-man show “Ryan Raftery is the Most Powerful Woman in Fashion – The Anna Wintour Musical” to the Kimmel Center for a limited engagement beginning Feb. 9.
After successful runs in New York City and Los Angeles, Raftery’s embodiment of the iconic fashion maven has landed him on Andy Cohen’s “Watch What Happens” and in The New York Times.
We had the opportunity to check-in with the comedian about his show before he brings it to the Kimmel. He opens up about why audiences love it, Wintour’s daughter coming to see it and what he has planned next.
What can audience members expect from your show?
The show is a based on Anna Wintour’s decision to place Kim and Kanye on the cover of Vogue and the immediate backlash that followed on social media. It’s a straight-up comedy set to popular music that I have changed the lyrics to. For instance, “Let it Go” from Frozen becomes “Let Me Go”, the 11 o’clock number where Anna fears that she will be fired for this decision. My shows are always based in fact but with lots of artistic license thrown in for comedic effect.
Why do you think audiences have responded so well to this work?
Anna is kind of like a real-life Disney villain, except she isn’t evil. She always looks flawless and doesn’t take any shit from anyone. Ever since the success of “The Devil Wears Prada,” there has been a heightened public interest in her. Then, she agreed to do “The September Issue,” a documentary about the goings on that surround the creation of her magazine’s most important issue of the year. She showed herself at home with her daughter in endearing maternal moments and then at work exhibiting her patented form of icy decisiveness. I think my show rounds her out as a human being with real fears and anxieties. Not to toot my own horn, but I think that the audience is truly won over when Anna talks about her late father and how she always yearned for his acceptance — and then sings Britney Spears’ “Everytime.”
What was it about Anna Wintour that made you want to devote an entire show to her?
At the time, I had a day job working for Coach in their public relations department. I was an assistant and it was at the time when Coach was about to show their collection at New York Fashion Week for the very first time in their 70 year history. I was amazed by how many times I heard the name “Anna.” “Anna won’t come, but she might send Virginia.” “Anna would hate that.” And then word came that Anna wanted to see the collection, but she wouldn’t come to the fashion show. So we had to pack up the entire collection and bring it to her office. Clearly, I was not invited into her office but I had to help bring the clothes there. The second I stepped off the elevator, I could feel the disturbance in the air. I’m not kidding. It was just like “The Devil Wears Prada.” Girls in stilettos were running around, rolling racks being pushed. I knew that I had found my next subject.
Her daughter came to your show in New York. What was that like?
I really believe that Bee’s attendance at my show changed the trajectory of my career. She came on opening night and it was very sold out. I was told later that she could not get tickets and she had someone from NBC (she works as a segment producer on Seth Meyers’ show) call and the venue literally created a table for her. I was very concerned how she would handle the show. There is a dance number where Anna sings about her affair and subsequent divorce. I seriously considered taking that part out of the show, but decided against it — hoping she’d have a sense of humor. Turns out, she did! She was in my dressing room before I got there after the show and we took photos together. She Instagrammed a photo of us with a caption calling me her “surrogate mother.” That garnered the attention of The New York Times (who came to the next show and featured me in the paper) as well as outlets in six different countries. It was a game changer for sure.
Any feedback from Anna?
I knew where Bee was sitting and could see her from the stage. She spent a large portion of the show holding her phone in the air. I knew she was taking video and I knew why. It was an out-of-body experience imagining Anna Wintour watching the video. Bee later told me that she showed it to Anna and she was amused, commenting: “He didn’t get the fashion right.” In my entire career, I have never been more nervous.
Any plans to bring your Andy Cohen musical to Philadelphia?
I’d love to. The audiences in New York and Los Angeles have responded so well to it and we have all the wigs stored and ready to go.
I also know you are working on a Martha Stewart show for New York next. How is that going?
I’ve never had more fun researching a subject (sorry Anna and Andy). There is so much there to dramatize. I’m excited about the prison dance break.
“Ryan Raftery is the Most Powerful Woman in Fashion – The Anna Wintour Musical” runs Feb. 9-11 at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. For tickets, visit kimmelcenter.org.