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January 23, 2015

Mimi Imfurst leads an all-drag production of 'Into the Woods'

The star dishes on what Disney left out and why fairy tales are perfect for drag

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Mimi Imfurst Facebook/for PhillyVoice

Mimi Imfurst takes on the role of "The Witch" in "Into the Woods."

Disney's adaptation of "Into the Woods," the Tony-winning Stephen Sondheim musical featuring adultery and pedophilia, received a lot of flack for deviating from the original plot. Namely, they hacked off some time from the over two and a half hour story and changed a few songs in order to make it, well, Disney-friendly

Mimi Imfurst feels their pain. While adapting the show for an all-drag, lip synced production at Voyeur, running Sunday, Feb 8 and 15, the famed drag queen faced similar challenges. The struggle rests in the play's complicated plot; tons of all-important exposition rests in the first half while the second half has all the fun.

"It’s almost like you’re sitting through the first act waiting for the second act to happen," Mimi Imfurst - the alter ego of actor Braden Chapman - said. 

Though they did have to make some cuts, Faux Real Entertainment, Imfurst's production arm, will be putting on a show much closer to the Sondheim classic than Disney's version. The performers will be lip syncing to the original cast's soundtrack and won't shy away from the grimmer points of the plot. 

"There’s also an incredibly dark side to "Into the Woods," and I think exploring that in drag is also really interesting," Imfurst said. 

In the original story, Rapunzel is killed by the Giant and the Witch is devastated. 

"The darkness of that is lost ... The Witch is an abandoned child. Her mother left her ... and punishes her in the same way that Rapunzel is punished and locked away from the world in the tower so the Witch is just repeating what she knows, and her failure to grow and adapt with the woods is what causes her to experience heartbreak. It’s an incredibly dark piece," Imfurst said.

Of course, the story is not all doom and gloom; it is also has gallant princes, a funny princess and a healthy dash of camp. 

"I do think that the subject matter really lends itself to having drag queens play these roles. Fairy tales are about fantasy, they’re about make believe, they’re about magic. The costumes are really fabulous. I think all of these things you’ll find in drag," Imfurst said.

Filling out the play's cast of characters are Pissi Myles as the Baker's Wife, Cleo Phatra as Little Red, Chachi Divine as Cinderella, and a slew of other drag queens. Imfurst, of course, will take on Meryl Streep's role as The Witch.

However, when asked who would win the Oscar, Streep or herself, Imfurst didn't think twice. 

"Meryl Streep! I’m not even going to try to compete with her! She’s pretty incredible. I actually would love to see her do it on stage," Imfurst said. 

But who needs Meryl when you have Mimi?

Into the Woods

Sunday, February 8 and Sunday, February 15
9 p.m. | $10
Voyeur Nightclub
1221 Saint James St.

This article has been updated to reflect that "Into the Woods" was rescheduled from Sundays Feb. 1 and 8, to Sundays Feb. 8 and 15.