Joseph and Casualty star Lee Mead heads back to the golden age of Hollywood
- Credit: Archant
Stage and screen star Lee Mead returns to the region with new show Some Enchanted Evening. He spoke to EA Arts about his career and why daughter Betsy is his biggest priority.
He’s appeared in smash West End shows and currently stars as nurse Lofty Chiltern in Casualty; but his hometown Southend still scores a place among Mead’s many career highs.
“A highlight for me was bringing my shows to my hometown, at The Cliffs Pavilion and I’ll never forget it. The support was unbelievable,” says the singer and actor, bringing his Some Enchanted Evening show to the West Cliff Theatre, Clacton, Essex, on August 16 and The Apex, Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, September 19.
“There have been so many proud moments, but performing Any Dream Will Do in the Concert For Diana in front of 80,000 people at Wembley Stadium is certainly high up there and made me realise how far I’d come.”
Mead shot to fame in 2007 when he won BBC1’s Any Dream Will Do and was cast in the lead role of the revival of Joseph. It led to roles in shows like Legally Blonde: The Musical, Wicked and West End Men as well as Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime and solo tours across the UK and around the world.
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“Joseph (gave me) the opportunity to take my own tours out on the road which was always a personal ambition,” says Mead, admitting fame didn’t come easy.
“I can be quite a shy person and in the beginning I felt a bit like a rabbit caught in the headlights. Since then, I’ve become more comfortable and realise it goes with the territory.”
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He loves bringing daughter Betsy, the result of his marriage to ex Denise Van Outen, whom he met on Any Dream Will Do, home to Essex. She’s the biggest priority in his life.
“I’m very hands-on and after filming (Casualty) in Cardiff all week I drive up to London to spend every weekend with her. She loves animals so I often take her to the London Aquarium and the Rainforest Café. Once a month I take her back to Southend to see my parents. There’s a place there called Adventure Island, which she loves.”
She loved watching him play Prince Charming in Cinderella last year.
“My mum brought her to see me and during a quiet part of the panto she suddenly called out ‘daddy’. It was so sweet and everyone was laughing. After the show she said to my mum ‘nanny, is daddy going to marry Cinderella? He can’t marry her - he’s my daddy’. This year I’m playing Aladdin alongside Marti Pellow and Julian Clary at the Hippodrome in Birmingham, so I’m hoping she’ll come to see me in that, too.”
Despite being well-established in musical theatre, Mead was keen to open up his career by taking on a role in a TV series. His role as Lofty in Casualty, which earned him a 2015 National Television Awards favourite newcomer nomination, was written especially for him.
“I’m really grateful to the executive producer Oliver Kent for giving me this huge break. He wanted a new nurse in the show who had a big heart and cares for his patients with a unique insight and so they created Lofty. (The role) has brought more variety into my working life and I’ve gained fantastic experience along the way.
“I’m loving it. The routine is very intense – I’m often on set for 12-hour days, then go home to just eat, sleep and read my lines for the following day – but it’s so rewarding. There are so many lovely people in the cast it’s a real pleasure to go to work.”
Co-star Amanda Henderson, who plays Robyn Miller, is joining him on tour. Mead invited her after hearing her sing Eva Cassidy’s Over the Rainbow in the dressing room next to his soon after joining the BBC1 drama.
“I hear a lot of good singers but her voice is very special. Although she’s been in the Les Miserables film and the West End show Oliver! she’s not toured in this way before and I’m really excited about singing with her. We’ve been working on Casualty together for two years and she’s become a really close friend.”
For his fourth UK live outing, he’s turning back the musical clock to the golden age of Hollywood and celebrating some of the classic songs that have become a part of our musical heritage. He’ll be performing all his favourites of the era.
“Singin’ In The Rain, which was made famous by Gene Kelly in the 1952 musical; Where Or When, originally performed by Judy Garland in Babes In Arms; Luck Be A Lady from Guys And Dolls; The Way You Look Tonight from the film Swing Time; I Fall In Love Too Easily, which was sung by Frank Sinatra in the film Anchors Aweigh; and, of course, Some Enchanted Evening from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific.
“As a boy I used to watch lots of the films that featured these amazing songs. I feel really comfortable singing this type of material. I think that’s because I connect with the meaning behind the lyrics and love the musical arrangements. On this tour my MD Mason Neely has created some great new arrangements but the songs still retain their authenticity.”
He’s been working with his band five years now and can’t sing their praises enough.
“They’re brilliant. We’ve got drums, a double bass, acoustic guitar, brass and a grand piano all coming on tour. I did my first 20-date tour with this band and have recently been producing my fourth album, which comes out in time for Mother’s Day next year, with them as well. It’s worked out perfectly because they’re based in Cardiff where I live during the week to film Casualty.”
The new album will feature a lot of the material from his Some Enchanted Evening tour. The idea came to him after he sang the title song in The West End Men show two years ago.
“It’s been eight years since I starred in Joseph and I’ve always been asked why I’ve never recorded songs from that era – now I am. It’s very exciting and the album will have a fresh, modern take on songs from that period.”