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John Cameron Mitchell joins Marty Thomas and others at "Pride Anthems" concert

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John Cameron Mitchell — Photo by Matthew Placek, Marty Thomas — Photo by Thomas Mundell
John Cameron Mitchell — Photo by Matthew Placek, Marty Thomas — Photo by Thomas Mundell

John Cameron Mitchell joins a powerhouse lineup of vocalists, including Broadway star Marty Thomas, for a concert of 50 years of Pride anthems, from Donna Summer, Queen, and George Michael to Erasure, Madonna, Lady Gaga, and others. The story of the fight for LGBTQ+ equality is linked to this music, evoking the struggles, heartache, and liberation of Queer lives then and now. "Pride Anthems" is a show designed for all ages to come together in song and celebrate the LGBTQ+ community.

I had a chance to chat with two Broadway/Gay Icons, Mitchell and Thomas, via email. (As a reminder, it was Thomas who beat Britney Spears on Star Search in 1992.)

On being back in Seattle
John Cameron Mitchell:
We had to cut off our [2020] Origin of Love Tour, sadly. I used to crowdsurf — I hope I wasn't a superspreader! I was also doing live listening marathons for my podcast musical Anthem: Homunculus. Everything shifted for live performances. We still haven't fully recovered audience-wise. My main mission to get people back into rooms together. It's one of the best antidepressants!

Marty Thomas: I was actually here a few months ago, boarding a cruise ship I was entertaining on. I've been so fortunate to visit Seattle several times, performing with tours and with my solo act over the years.

On the "Pride Anthem" concert
They just reached out! I guess they're doing a lot of West Coast towns and lassoed me into the biggest one, Seattle. And I'm excited to visit Bellingham for the first time!

MT: [Pride Anthems musical director] Brian Nash, who I've hosted and performed with for over 20 years, asked me what my summer looked like. He told me the concept of the show, and buttoned it with Amy Jo Jackson and Kevin Smith Kirkwood having signed on. Tour the country singing some of my favorite music with some of my favorite people? Count me in!

"Pride Anthems" is an anthology of the music that has quite literally defined the LGBTQIA+ movement since the movement was at all visible. We are singing disco, show tunes, pop, rock, and everything in between. It's so important to shine a light on how difficult the Queer liberation and equality journey has been, how far we've come, and how much further we have to go.

On favorite Gay anthems
Well, Amber Martin and I do a retrospective show called Cassette Roulette and sing a lot of what I call alt-Gay anthems, including "Small Town Boy" by Bronski Beat, which was a dance hit when I was coming out in the '80s. In the '70s I loved all the Queer icons — Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Lou Reed, Barbra Streisand, and Barry Manilow — and I do their songs on tour. Some may pop up in "Pride Anthems"!

MT: I always come running for disco and the holy trifecta: Celine, Whitney, and Mariah. I also never met a show tune I didn't like.

What is Pride?
Pride was first time a boy whistled at me on the street. I love being objectified. Of course, that was in the time of AIDS, and Pride has always been a political party to remind folks that the misfits are not alone and that we deserve respect.

MT: Pride is who I am. I've been an out Gay artist since I really felt like an artist. It definitely wasn't as easy in the '90s when I was coming up in the industry, but it was so much harder for Queer artists that came before me. Everything that was made more gentle for me came at their expense, and for that I'm forever grateful.

I had so many mentors to look up to and to guide me, primarily my big sister Julia. I think having another Queer kid in the family was just as comforting then as it is now.

It's fascinating to have watched the journey of Queer culture, to see how far we've come and the ways that artists are able to safely and freely express themselves in 2024. I'm proud to be a small link in that chain.

"Pride Anthems" is providing me a brilliant platform and very intentional space to reflect on how proud I am of who I am today, through music.

"Pride Anthems" hits Seattle's Benaroya Hall on Friday, June 7. For tickets, visit https://seattlesymphony.org

The concert is produced in partnership with Pride Live, which will apply some of the proceeds toward the Stonewall National Monument Visitors Center, which will open next month. Visit https://pridelive.org to learn more.