‘Pride Anthems’ To Celebrate LGBTQ+ Community In Amp

Pride Anthems

From the disco days of Donna Summer to the hit songs of Queen and pop melodies of Lady Gaga, music has been at the forefront of the LGBTQ+ community, and so have the songs that continue to make us dance and cheer.

At 8:15 p.m. tonight in the Amphitheater, Chautauquans will be able to travel through the decades of songs that are central to the LGBTQ+ community and celebrate the legacy of the Stonewall Uprising during Pride Anthems, a touring music concert. 

Broadway performers Marty Thomas, Kevin Smith Kirkwood and Natalie Joy Johnson will take the stage, and a portion of the proceeds benefit Pride Live and the Stonewall National Monument Visitors Center, which opens this Friday.

The idea started when IMG Artists, a performing arts management company, partnered with Pride Live, a not-for-profit organization that produces LGBTQ+ programming, and contacted music director Brian J. Nash and writer Justin Elizabeth Sayre last year about creating a pride concert tour. 

Nash, who produced the award-winning Silence! The Musical and the Bare off-Broadway production, said he became interested in learning more about artists with connections to the queer community and the history behind their songs and identities. 

“Every song is either performed by a queer artist or has a very strong identity to the gay community, so there’s some Madonna and some Lady Gaga in there,” he said. “That was really the fun thing: to create a list of iconic songs that were connected to a particular era, a particular year, a particular moment in gay history and go from there.”

Nash immediately thought of artists such as Freddie Mercury and David Bowie, who collaborated on the 1981 song, “Under Pressure,” and decided to include it in the show. After doing more research, he said he was surprised to learn that Mercury never publicly came out during his lifetime.

“We think of Freddie as being such a queer icon, which he was, but he was not out when that song was released,” he said.

Pride Anthems also features the song “That’s What Friends Are For” by Dionne Warwick, Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight, a song that Nash grew up listening to.

While working with the performers during rehearsals and performances, he said it’s been rewarding watching them embody who they are on stage and interact with the audience.

“Because it’s a concert, it’s very rare to have theatrical performers who are that comfortable being themselves on stage and talking to, playing with, and relating to an audience, so that’s why this group is so special,” he said.

As Chautauquans gather to enjoy 50 years of hit songs, Nash hopes the audience will take time to celebrate the LGBTQ+ community’s past and look toward the future.

“It’s a party,” he said. “It’s a celebration of the movement and the music and the joy involved in it. Yes, there’s some heartbreak in that, as there is in every civil rights struggle, but at the end of the day, it’s really about the joy of this community and celebrating the creativity of these artists.”

Tags : IMG ArtistsKevin Smith KirkwoodLGBTQ+Marty ThomasNatalie Joy JohnsonPride AnthemsStonewall National Monument Visitors Center

The author Aden Graves

Aden Graves is spending his first summer in Chautauqua as the theater beat reporter for the Daily. He is from Uniontown, Ohio, and will enter his senior year at Kent State University in the fall. A journalism and communication studies major, he has worked for KentWired/The Kent Stater, the university’s independent student news, for two years and has served as opinion editor, opinion writer, LGBTQ+ beat reporter, general assignment reporter, social media assistant and digital tech. Aden has a passion for theater, singing and the arts and is thrilled to be covering the Chautauqua Theater Company this season.