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Is He Musical? Jude Taylor Interview

February is LGBTQ+ History Month and as part of De Montfort University’s #DMUPride programme, Curve will host the live, world premiere performance of Is He Musical? on Wednesday 23 February. Written by Curve Resident Creative Jude Taylor (He/Him), the musical is an intimate and joyous tale inspired by the true stories of queer friends who loved, lived and partied in 1930s London.

Jude spoke about the production, what audiences can expect and how the musical is shining light on lesser-known stories.

Jude began by explaining what the show is about. "Is He Musical? is a new one act musical comedy inspired by real stories of LGBTQ+ people in the 1930s. It tells the story of Laurence, a young pianist who moves to London in 1933 to find work and to find himself. His life changes forever when he meets Wilfred and their friends at the grand, luxurious Long Bar in the Trocadero on Shaftesbury Avenue - secretly a regular meeting place of a group of gay men of the time.

Over the course of just one hour, the audience time travels on a joyous journey back to 1930s London, where Laurence and Wilfred visit notable spaces where small ‘exclusive cliques’ of LGBT people might have gathered at the time, such as the Trocadero, as well as the much smaller, edgier Caravan Club just off Drury Lane."

Jude explained that he "explored a range of sources." when working and developing the show. "The original idea for the story came from an episode of the 1980s series Gay Life, in which two older gay gentlemen in 1981 take a nostalgic walk around the West End sharing stories and memories of their time together with friends in the early 1930s. I’ve also referred to extensive research done by the National Archives, too, for example, who actually reconstructed the Caravan Club in 2017 using police records and other images and information. I’ve also benefited from the kindness and generosity of historians who I’ve met with over the last year who are also supporting the historical engagement side of the production as a whole."

"As the show is only one hour, Is He Musical? isn’t intended to be a highly accurate portrayal of the time, but the story includes examples and quotes from all of these different sources and offers an opportunity for us to view them through a contemporary lens."

The show was developed over the course of the last year. "In February 2021 I was commissioned by producer Matt Powell to write a new musical theatre song for LGBT History Month. After seeing the Gay Life episode for the first time as part of my research, I decided to use this to write a piece called Upstairs at the Trocadero. Following this commission, I was so excited about the story and subject that I continued my research, and Matt supported me to shape the idea into a full one act piece. Last year we further developed the show through workshops at Curve before publicly presenting an extract at The Lowry in Manchester. We were excited to originally be programmed into the 2022 VAULT Festival which would have been taking place at the moment, before it was sadly cancelled in January 2022."

"However, we were thrilled to be offered an opportunity to bring the show to audiences in 3 other ways instead - a digital (live stream) version, a production at Curve, and a semi-staged concert at The Other Palace in London. We’re incredibly grateful to be supported by Arts Council England, Curve, De Montfort University and University of Wolverhampton."

An often less explored time Jude feels its an important story to tell. "Is He Musical? highlights a period of LGBTQ+ history that is perhaps less often explored. In particular, although we intend to acknowledge the injustices that LGBTQ+ people of course faced during this period, we also intend to show examples of the happy, wonderful times shared by friends of the time, too, and to celebrate the joy, resilience, community spirit and strength demonstrated, as this was so apparent in the research we looked into.

"The show is led by two incredible young graduate actors, including one actor-musician, who plays piano live at various points in the show. We have three musicians live onstage too - not just accompanying, but also participating in the story at points. The score is influenced by the sound of the 1930s, but at times is combined with elements of a more contemporary musical theatre style, too."

For Leicestershire born Jude bringing the show to Curve feels special. "I grew up in Leicestershire and have returned here over the last few years. Curve was always my local theatre, and I have had several very influential theatre-going experiences there! In 2012 I was excited to be invited onto the Curve Young Arts Entrepreneurs scheme which played a huge role in my personal and professional development as a theatre-maker and writer, so I have great sentimental links to the theatre, overall. I’m so excited about the opportunity to bring this story ‘home’!"

The show is staged as part of  #DMUPride, Jude spoke of why the show will appeal to students. "I hope students are excited about the opportunity to see a piece of new musical theatre created by a team of emerging artists, including recent graduates of a similar age, and are inspired by this. I hope they also enjoy the opportunity to immerse themselves in an era of LGBTQ+ history that is less often explored, and that they are inspired to leave the theatre wanting to learn and know more about our pasts and where we come from. 

There are great opportunities to get involved in workshops with the production. "We’re also excited to be facilitating a series of workshops alongside our performances at Curve, too, including a practical rehearsal room-based workshop on creating/staging musical theatre on Wednesday 23rd February, and a Zoom workshop on writing new musical theatre on Thursday 24th February. We’re also facilitating a post-show Q and A session after the matinee performance on Wednesday 23rd February."

Finally, Jude explained how he wants audiences to feel as they leave the theatre "Informed, inspired, uplifted…and joyful!"

Part of De Montfort University’s #DMUPride programme, Is He Musical? can be seen at Leicester’s Curve theatre at 2:30pm and 7:45pm on Wednesday 23 February. To find out more about the performances, related workshops and to book tickets now, visit 

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