Photo by Valerie Durant | Freeform Promotional Image
Josh Baum-Shmigel serving his best 'Winnifred Sanderson' at Freeform's 'Hocus Pocus' 25th Anniversary Celebration
Cleveland cosplayer and occasional drag queen, Josh Baum-Shmigel is known for his impeccable impersonation of Winnifred Sanderson in Hocus Pocus. So much so, that he's going to be featured on the Freeform (formerly ABC Family) 25th Anniversary Celebration and cast reunion airing Saturday night.
Baum-Shmigel was introduced to Bette Midler at an early age, and she quickly became his favorite entertainer. When he turned 11, the obsession truly sank in.
"When Hocus Pocus came out, it was geared toward my age demographic," he tells Scene. "The fantasy of it along with the musical moments — I wish there were more — made it a winner for me. I'm certain I saw the film five or more times in the theatre."
After creating his drag persona, Maya Tack, in 2006, Baum-Shmigel made his first attempt at Midler's "Winnifred Sanderson" character in 2011.
"Bringing the character to life with movements was my strong suit without the iconic costuming," he says. "I created my own version of the wig, and did pretty well with the makeup, but the performance was what sold it."
Baum-Shmigel acknowledges that his first rendition of the look wasn't screen perfect, as he didn't have the tooth "flipper" for Winnifred's iconic buck-teeth.
"I had studied Winifred's/Bette's movements closely through the years, as any typical boy did when acting out parts of the movie, especially the 'I Put a Spell On You' musical number," says Baum-Shmigel.
In 2016, Baum-Shmigel, his husband Roger, and their close friend, Jenn English, traveled to Las Vegas to compete as the full Sanderson Sister trio for a Halloween costume contest held at The Linq where the trio came in 3rd place out of a massive number of entrants. A video of the event can be seen below:
It was when Baum-Shmigel saw a snapchat advertisement from Los Angeles drag queen, Rhea Litre's, looking for costume submissions for the 25th Anniversary Halloween Bash that he got on Freeform's radar. He submitted photos a few days after seeing the post and was invited out to Los Angeles to compete.
The event, which was filmed at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery was hosted by Jordan Fisher (Teen Beach Movie, Grease Live!) and Vanessa Hudgens (High School Musical, Dog Days) with Sharon and Kelly Osbourne hosting the costume contest in which Baum-Shmigel competed. The cast reunion included Kathy Najimy (Mary Sanderson), Omri Katz (Max Dennison), Thora Birch (Dani Dennison), Vinessa Shaw (Allison), Amanda Shepherd (Emily Binx), Kenny Ortega (director) and more.
"It was really unforgettable," says Baum-Shmigel. "Having never been to L.A. before, going for this particular reason meant it was a big deal."
Baum-Shmigel told us he was even able to interact with Ortega during rehearsals and throughout the night, calling the experience "unbelievable." Ortega is a huge noise in the world of movie musicals, and not only directed Hocus Pocus, but other smash hits like Dirty Dancing, High School Musical and Michael Jackson's This is It.
There were 24 other contestants in the Runway Costume Contest who were all kept separated in their own area throughout the day.
"Once the nerves calmed down a lot of us really started to really meet each other and make friends," he says. "It was a long day being in full makeup and costume but worth every bit of discomfort."
The 25th Anniversary Special airs at 8:15 p.m. on Oct. 20, including the results of the costume contest. HoPo fans can catch up on all things Hocus Pocus during the “Pop’n Knowledge” trivia special before and after the bash at 6:05 p.m. and 9:45 p.m.
Hocus Pocus will also air throughout the “31 Nights of Halloween” on Freeform, and there will also be a day-long marathon with the Sanderson sisters on Oct. 31.