The Midsumma shows how to bring joy to a joyless world

Sanders, who wears a feathered codpiece and not much else, agrees. The teddy bears of his childhood were his first audience. “I remember singing and dancing to it Bring on the men from [the musical] Jekyll & Hyde‘ he recalls. “My parents are very athletic and like traditional gender roles. When I came out, they were like, ‘What the hell are we going to do?’”

Thankfully, while a little overwhelmed, they were supportive. “Dad used to go to the local library and ask them what musicals they had,” says Sanders. “He came home with films like The Wizard of Oz, easter parade and sing in the rain on VHS and we sat and watched it.”

Singin' In The Rain was a huge inspiration for Josh Sanders.

Singin’ In The Rain was a huge inspiration for Josh Sanders.

He didn’t realize it at the time, but looking back, Sanders says he projected himself into the female roles. “They were the center of attention, had the fabulous costumes and the boys in line behind them.”

Getting started in musical theater, Sanders found it to be a much more competitive and less supportive scene than the queer performance circuit. “In a musical, you’re more of a cog in a big machine with very little creative input, and the industry can be pretty vicious. So I was drawn to burlesque and cabaret where you can literally do whatever you want and the community has been so welcoming.”

He says Alto was a bright spot. “Mom was very supportive when I started and she’s great at bringing people together, giving them an opportunity to perform, a place to develop their craft, network and showcase to the audience. I owe her a great debt of gratitude.”


It’s not a one-way street. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and it’s exhausting being a self-producing artist trying to compete at festivals,” Alto says, referring specifically to the lockdown years. “I’ve watched Josh build his shows and encourage other queer artists. And so, to me, what was so special was his kind generosity in creating this double bill where he put in that legwork so that we can shine. I am blessed to work with him.”

Ziegfeld boy and follies girls are February 3-5 as part of Midsumma in Chapel off Chapel.

A cultural guide to going out and making love in the city. Sign up for our Culture Fix newsletter here. The Midsumma shows how to bring joy to a joyless world

Jaclyn Diaz

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