Raftery, who is best known for portraying Wintour in his one-man show “The Most Powerful Woman in Fashion,” will debut his latest musical “Watch What Happens Live on Stage!” on July 12 at Joe’s Pub in New York.
The show, which is loosely based on the Bravo executive’s book “Most Talkative,” features a trio of actresses portraying “Real Housewives” reality stars Nene Leakes of the Atlanta cast, Teresa Giudice of New Jersey and Kim Richards of Beverly Hills.
Raftery said he originally thought of casting the “Housewives” as a Greek chorus, but decided against it, instead unearthing “archetypes” of the most salacious personality types, namely “a strong black woman,” a person with “anger management” issues and a “drinker.”
“I do see this as a Faustian story,” he said, explaining that his version of Cohen “made a deal with the devil” when he created this menagerie of reality stars, who eagerly pull back the curtain to their personal lives in exchange for 15 minutes of fame.
Loosely fictionalized, the play traces Cohen’s rise to the status of reality TV kingmaker, during which the executive becomes obsessed with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. In real life, Cohen and Cooper are friends and are currently on a speaking tour dubbed “AC2.” At one point, they had been set up on a date — in reality and in the play — but were better suited as friends.
The pull to attract and impress Cooper, a real journalist with a high society Vanderbilt bloodline, is part of Raftery’s plot, and draws an amusing juxtaposition between the two men. Miranda Noelle Wilson plays both Cooper and Richards, and Emily McNamara portrays Guidice. Raftery brought back “Wintour actor, Romelda Teron Benjamin, who played a fierce André Leon Talley and will likely play an equally fierce Leakes.
“I’d love Andy and Anderson to come see the show. There’s nothing mean-spirited,” Raftery said. “I’m a comedian.”
But there is a weightier side to the play.
Raftery quoted a recent New York Times story on Cohen’s “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” spinoff, “Vanderpump Rules,” which compared watching such shows to “having my brain stroked to a very low-grade, consequence-free orgasm — a pleasurable sort of noninvolvement.”
“But is it?” the actor said. “Is it inconsequential? We have a reality star as our Republican nominee for president.”
Intrigued by Donald Trump’s rise, Raftery hasn’t ruled out a musical on the businessman, but turned back to his recent works, which he referred to as “companion pieces.”
In the Wintour play, “Anna is a massively powerful person who could have been brought down by featuring Kim [Kardashian] and Kanye [West] on the cover of Vogue.”
In fact, Wintour spends much of the play wondering if she made a mistake to feature the couple in the magazine, and fears for her job, but instead gets congratulated by her bosses at Condé Nast.
“I thought about another titan of media. Andy Cohen is so fascinating to me because he created this world. He’s this ringleader,” he said, referring to the “Housewives.”
Tickets are still available for the Aug. 1 and 8 performances, as well as a Sept. 12 show. Raftery said for that final show, which runs during fashion week, he may “bring back ‘Anna,’ for a late night surprise performance.
“The Kardashian-angle is still as timely as ever,” he said with a mixture of derision and delight. “They’re not going away anytime soon.”