Actor Ryan Raftery has made a living out of covering the careers of American business moguls through song and dance —and now in his upcoming show, he’s going to channel the life of the woman who made domestic perfection a multi-million business: Martha Stewart. Raftery already covered the careers of reality TV executive Andy Cohen and Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, and as the final entry for his “Titans of Media” trilogy, he will use Stewart’s story to chart “the rise and fall (and rise)” of America’s first self-made female billionaire. The show is set to have a five-show run at Joe’s Pub in New York City starting August 7.
— Ryan Raftery (@ryanraftery) June 16, 2017
Stewart’s career is full of Shakespearean twists that are rich for a musical. It was Stewart’s former best friend who gave damning testimony in Stewart’s insider-trading trial in 2004, sending the domestic doyenne to jail.
A prison stint would have tanked many other careers, but Stewart used her time behind bars to win friends: she made jam from the crabapples on the campus and taught her fellow prisoners how to make ceramics. Through Stewart’s resilience and business savvy, she mounted a comeback of merchandise deals and partnerships to finally rejoin the board of her namesake company in 2011.
Along the way, she embraced an innovative approach to branding, moving beyond the “perfect hostess” theme she had pursued before. She grew her reach with unexpected partnerships, including “Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party,” a variety cooking show she recently did with rapper Snoop Dogg.
According to Raftery, the musical will start its story on the day Stewart reported to prison and then will trace Stewart’s humble beginnings from 15-year-old New Jersey schoolgirl to lifestyle business mogul who “changed the way we live our lives by daring us to try harder.” His musical follows another show that’s charting the rise of female pioneers, “War Paint,” a musical about the rivalry between 20th century beauty moguls Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden.
“I had to choose someone on the same level of influence as Andy and Anna,” Raftery told Ladders. “What I found so fascinating with [Stewart] is the earnestness she has in her demonstrations. She really wants to help…Anna sells a fantasy. You can read Vogue every day for the rest of your your life, but that doesn’t mean you’ll be able to afford that Chanel suit. But Martha sells attainable perfectionism. She encourages people to create their own world.”
Raftery will tell his tale of American ambition and hubris through parodying the tunes of Beyoncé, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Metallica and Adele.
For Stewart’s post-prison comeback number, he adapted Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” The energy of heavy death metal is what Stewart would need to rebuild her brand. “The feeling of that song is extraordinarily aggressive and Martha is very, very aggressive in how she handles herself, her business,” Raftery said. “She’s 75 years old and she’s not slowing down.”
As an ardent fan of Stewart, Raftery said he would welcome Stewart seeing his show, but he admits that her presence would leave him anxious. “Not only because I’m performing a show about her, but because she’s an expert in Martha Stewart,” he said.”If I did something where she’s like, ‘that’s not right, or oh no I never said that, or oh look at the pants he’s wearing,’ it would be really nerve-wracking but it would be an honor to have her come and see it.”
Here’s hoping that Raftery breaks through Stewart’s calculated, curated persona that built her a media empire to find the unique woman underneath who takes bad pictures of iceberg lettuce and enjoys using her drone to view her vegetable garden.