Review: Lee Mead, The Riverfront, Newport
Celebrating over a decade in show-business can be a rare milestone these days. Lee Mead, however is an exception. In the ten years since he first captured the public's imagination when taking part (and subsequently winning) the Andrew Lloyd Webber talent show, Any Dream Will Do, Lee has proven that he has star quality rather than celebrity status.
Singer, recording artist, stage and television actor, the list goes on and so does Lee. So much so, Lee is currently celebrating with a UK tour of intimate concerts (in between recording episodes of Holby City). A chance therefore to see and hear him performing a selection of stage songs and pop hits at Newport Riverfront on Saturday evening was a chance not to be missed.
Lee began the show with the song Pure Imagination from the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, of which he was accompanied on piano by Musical Director, Adam Dennis. The introduction may have appeared to be low key, but it was quickly stepped up with the appearance of backing musicians Tommy Emmerton on guitar, Ian Whitehead on drums, Richie Blake on bass guitar and John Pearce on violin as recaling his role of Fiyero Tigelaar (or as he joked Ferrero Rocher) in Wicked! Lee gave a bouncy performance of Dancing Through Life.
Lee didn’t keep the set-list exclusively to stage hits, although the audience probably wouldn’t have complained if he had. The set-list was also peppered with some of his favourite pop songs including John Legend's All of Me, U2’s With or Without You, Will Young’s Leave Right Now and The Beatles’ Blackbird.
The show also featured two guest stars. Stephen Rahman-Hughes is one of Lee’s long time collaborators and their friendship goes back to working on the stage show West-End Men where they duet-ted together. Stephen performed three solo numbers across the show, the most magical been his rendition of the classic Earth, Wind & Fire track After the Love Has Gone. Sadly, Lee and Stephen didn’t perform a duet together on this occasion. Maybe next time?
Lee did perform a duet with his second-guest, friend and former Casualty co-star Amanda Henderson, in the form of As Long as You’re Mine from Wicked! To enhance the combat conditions of live entertainment, a fly descended from the top of the auditorium and proceeded to land on Lee’s nose as the pair performed the duet. The pair carried on and let the audience in on the joke at the end of the song. Amanda had time to compose herself before delivering a rendition of Don’t Forget Me from Smash!
The concert was a great platform for Lee to talk honestly and openly about his life and career. He mentioned his young daughter Betsy on several occasions and also dedicated Terence Trent D’Arby’s Let Her Down Gently to her . There were also several comical anecdotes , one of which Lee recalled was playing a show at a seemingly empty Northern Theatre. On finishing the song Barcelona the only appreciation Lee recieved was a woof1" from a blind mans dog at the back of the auditorium.
It was interesting to learn about Lee's early musical theatre career, before his success with Joseph, including 73 performances of Chris in Miss Saigon, which included performing before Claude-Michel Schönberg and Alain Boublil the team behind Miss Saigon and Les Miserables. He also revealed he had performed as understudy to Raoul in Phantom of the Opera. Lee's performance of Why God Why from Miss Saigon was undoubtedly the highlight of the evening.
There were of course a few references to Any Dream Will Do, the TV show that propelled Lee to stardom. As well as performing Close Every Door from Joseph there was also a rendition of Mick Jagger and Keith Richard’s Paint It Black which Lee had previously given a theatrical take for on Any Dream Will Do. The audience clearly enjoyed this by clapping along and were undoubtedly overjoyed when Lee returned to the stage in a Technicolor Dreamcoat to perform the signature song Any Dream Will Do.
Personal, intimate and a lot of fun, Lee Mead live on stage certainly won over his Newport audience! Unlike the Joseph song Close Every Door, the door is undoubtedly open in the future for a warm return of Mead magic!