Performance artist takes on couture maven Anna Wintour

Next week at SEI Innovation Studios, the sprightly, Brooklyn-born Ryan Raftery will again do what’s made him famous: don a severe bob wig, a weighty pair of sunglasses and a thin-lipped sneer for his one-man-in-Chanel-A-line-skirts show, “Ryan Raftery is the Most Powerful Woman in Fashion: The Anna Wintour Musical.”

For the unfamiliar and unfashionable, Wintour is not only Vogue’s editor-in-chief (going on 29 years) but also artistic director of the entire Condé Nast publishing empire. Along with her signature thick symmetrical haircut, Manolo Blahnik footwear and ubiquitous shades, the woman nicknamed “Nuclear Wintour” is renowned for an icy stare and impassive view toward anything not couture. Raftery portrays a (comically) realistic Wintour, one who may fear losing her monarchial grip, to say nothing of her sobriety. Plus, Raftery has done something similarly musical to Bravo Network boss Andy Cohen with “Ryan Raftery’s Watch What Happens: Live on Stage!” in which he tackles that gay television icon’s obsessions with Anderson Cooper and “Real Housewives.”

We caught up to Raftery as he prepares to bring “Wintour” to Philadelphia.

PGN: What links Andy Cohen to Anna Wintour in terms of media icons worth lampooning?

RR: My Anna Wintour show focuses on the fact that the most powerful woman in a $300-billion industry almost lost her job for putting the world’s biggest reality star on the cover of her magazine.

PGN: Ms. Kardashian.

RR: Yes. And when I finished the run of the Wintour show and considered new themes, reality television seemed interesting to me. The idea of wanting to be famous but not having talent forces people to do very desperate things. Fame is the worst drug in the world and Andy Cohen is its most famous dealer. I knew it had to be him.

PGN: Once you decided who, what were the first things that you keyed into for Wintour?

RR: Anna’s look was the most important part. I knew the wig needed to be perfection, and it is. A talented friend, Jake Dingler, is a hairstylist who painstakingly created the wig to Wintour’s exact specifications. The wig is the real star; it has its own handler on show days! When Anna Wintour’s daughter came to the show, she took about 20 photos of it backstage.

PGN: What were the toughest elements of capturing Wintour?

RR: The hardest part of playing Anna was humanizing her. When people think of her, they think of Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada.” But Anna is a real person who cares very much about her job and doesn’t factor friendliness into her job description. She is never mean, but she is also never going to compliment you on your outfit or ask you out for coffee, either.

PGN: What scene should shock the audience in regard to the fashion maven?

RR: My Anna twerks.

PGN: Have you heard from Cohen or Wintour about the shows?

RR: I heard from both of them. Anna saw video of my show as her daughter filmed the performance on opening night, and she commented that I “didn’t get the fashion right,” which could not have been a more perfect “Anna” thing to say. Andy sent me flowers on the opening night and said, “I finally have something in common with Anna Wintour!” He was very, very nice.

PGN: As this is PGN we must ask: Are you in a relationship?

RR: Nope. Totally single, boys. Say hi after the show.

PGN: How did you get hooked up with the Kimmel Center to make certain that a BYOB program is allowed?

RR: My shows are performed in New York CIty at Joe’s Pub at the Public Theater and they have a great relationship with the Kimmel Center. The BYOB aspect of this performance should make it interesting. I kind of have to stay sober for the show, unfortunately, but I hope the audience has a blast.

PGN: What’s the one thing you like to do before going on stage?

RR: I work out before every show to get my blood pumping. It’s 85 minutes of non-stop singing, dancing and talking. It takes a lot out of me and I love it. You’ve never seen Anna Wintour until you see her dry hump a piano, I assure you.

PGN: Who might you lampoon next?

RR: I’m working on the final show in my “Titans of Media Trilogy.” I will debut “The Rise and Fall (and Rise) of Martha Stewart” in New York City this summer. Why her? It’s the prison musical numbers. n

“Ryan Raftery is the Most Powerful Woman in Fashion: The Anna Wintour Musical” runs 8 p.m. Feb. 9-11 at SEI Innovation Studio at the Kimmel Center, 300 S. Broad St. For more information or tickets, visit