Early in 2014, Andy Howells interviewed singer and actor Lee Mead prior to his UK tour of concerts across selected theatres. The tour commenced at Cardiff's Sherman Theatre on May 4.
Versatility doesn't come naturally to all artists but Lee Mead is undoubtedly an exception to the rule. Proving his talent well beyond winning the title role of Joseph in Joseph and His Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat on the talent show Any Dream Will Do, several years back, Lee can currently be seen on BBC One’s Casualty.
He was also recently announced in a starring role of Cardiff New Theatre’s pantomime, Cinderella this Christmas as well as embarking on a UK tour.
“I feel lucky I can do both” says Lee when discussing his TV and music career, “over the years I’ve done shows at the New Theatre and the Millennium Centre, but the kind of show I’m putting on this year is a more stripped back acoustic based set. The main reason to do smaller venues on this tour is to make it more intimate, I did a small run at a jazz bar on London’s Old King’s Road, I really enjoyed that way of performing it was the first time I’d done that as opposed to doing big shows in the West End.”
The tour will be spread out across UK venues on Sunday evenings across the remainder of 2014 in order to tie in with Lee’s filming commitments to Casualty in Cardiff. It’s a balance he finds quite challenging, especially as he also makes trips back to London to see his daughter.
“I started filming on Casualty last October but the episodes you see on TV are shot four months in advance so my first episode was broadcast over a month ago,” says Lee who says the role of Lofty has given his acting career “a new lease of life”.
“It’s something I wanted to explore about five years ago but to make that transition when you’re publicly known for musicals is hard. You have to prove yourself; I’d done a guest appearance on Casualty three years prior. The producer Oliver Kent called me in to read for a new role Lofty, a nurse and had me in mind for the part. Fortunately I read really well and was filming about a week later. Its crazy, Casualty is a big show and has a real loyal following with 5 or 6 million a week I’m really proud to be a part of it.”
Lee is currently in the process of recording his fourth album, although he admits he gets little time to write songs due to his busy schedule, so he will be concentrating on producing new takes on familiar material including music from classic MGM musicals South Pacific and Anything Goes, some songs will be previewed at his forthcoming shows.
“I’m trying it out to see what response I get,” he says, “I’m doing Some Enchanted Evening from South Pacific and Luck Be A Lady from Guys and Dolls. That’s where I got my passion for musical theatre. I’m a working class lad so couldn't afford to go, it was a once-a year treat, so my passion came from watching those films.”
“I've got a great producer and musical director called Mason Neely who also works with Cerys Matthews and Hayley Westenra, he’s a super talented guy and I'm really lucky to have him on my team. We've done an arrangement of Music of the Night from Phantom of the Opera and what you’d expect to hear is that theatrical iconic version but the version we do is acoustic and stripped back, the way he’s written the arrangement is so beautiful and completely different. There will be a couple of Joseph numbers as well because you cant miss that out.”
Lee scored hits with both Any Dream Will Do and Close Every Door after winning the Joseph talent show on television several years ago. I ask him if he had ever got tired of his association with the musical. “If I’m been honest I did because for a couple of years afterwards I didn't want to be pigeonholed and your fighting against that’s all your known for. Seven years on, I've learned to embrace it and think how lucky I am to have had that platform. It’s a nice thing now to have those songs in my concerts and get asked to sing them; it was a unique thing that happened”.
Lee is also looking forward to his Cardiff show because he will be joined on stage by fellow actor and singer Stephen Raman Hughes, “He’s a big star in Asia and he’s not as established here as a solo artist but he’s about to play the lead in Rock of Ages the musical on a UK tour he’s a great friend and we’re looking at doing a duet, he’s got a very different voice from mine which is important.”
Lee believes his ability to act is as crucial to live performances as his singing, “With acting you've got to tell a story it’s not good enough to have a nice voice and sing a song.”
- A previous version of Andy Howells interview with Lee Mead was originally published in The South Wales Argus entertainment supplement The Guide during May 2014.