Today, the Disney comedy “Hocus Pocus” may be a Halloween tradition, but when the Disney film starring Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker and Kathy Najimy premiered 26 years ago—in July—it was a box office bomb.
“Timing is everything,” said Nicole Halliwell, a local drag performer and producer who has adored the movie since. “Like pretty much everyone on the planet who loves Halloween, I’ve always been pretty much obsessed with this movie.”
Halliwell vividly recalled standing on her bed with a broom re-enacting the scenes.
“As a kid, I was a huge Bette Midler fan, which is so typical of my gay heritage, and would pretend to be Winnie,” she said.
While most fans might be content collecting posters or other memorabilia, Halliwell took her obsession further, creating a stage version and enlisting “her” sisters to bring the Sanderson witches back to life in a tribute not affiliated with the Disney Company.
“I’ve been extremely lucky to know and work with these absolutely phenomenal people who put 110% into everything they do. Our show stars some incredible entertainers including Calypso Monroe and Nicky Monet,” Halliwell said.
She couldn’t have imagined the monster she created seven years ago as a short Halloween “bar skit” evolved into touring production, performed in theaters across the state before thousands.
Halliwell, a professional graphic designer and photographer who draws a distinct line with his male persona, recreated not only the characters, but the sets and props in painstaking detail, and her efforts have been rewarded every year.
Along the way, her efforts have been noticed by film stars Najimy (Mary Sanderson) and Doug Jones (Billy Butcherson), and Disney has even flown Halliwell to California to perform as Winnie at studio events.
This season, local performances on Friday, Oct. 25 at the Kelsey Theater in Lake Worth sold out so quickly, she added two shows on Thursday, Oct. 24.
Audiences will be treated to a pre-show taste of “Queenz,” one of the many other reviews Halliwell has created featuring local drag performers. She is also putting together “Night of 1000 Gagas” at the W hotel on Fort Lauderdale Beach on Oct. 22 and “Icons,” a celebrity tribute, at Mizner Park Cultural Center in Boca Raton on Nov. 15. And, in between the big productions, Halliwell hosts her own unique brand of drag bingo at several local brewhouses and is a regular on the stages of local nightclubs.
But, it’s “Hocus Pocus” Live that remains closest to her heart during the autumn months: “It makes me happy to see so many new generations getting to experience and love this movie the way I do…(it’s becoming) a tradition for decades to come.”
Tickets are still available at HocusPocusLive.net for “Hocus Pocus” Live on Thursday, Oct. 24 at the Kelsey Theater, 700 Park Ave. in Lake Park. For more information about other Nicole Halliwell productions and performances, go to NicoleHalliwell.com.