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Lee Mead

Lee Mead was catapulted into stardom after winning the BBC1 talent show Any Dream Will Do back in 2007… and after playing Joseph in a best-selling West End show Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat. He’s since released several albums, taken on more leading roles on stage, as well as become a popular character on BBC1’s drama series Holby City. But surely it can’t be ten years since he got his big break?

“I can’t believe it’s gone so quickly. I won’t ever forget that night,” smiles Lee. “It’s really nice to revisit that period again because I really didn’t think that ten years on I would still be doing it. I’ve worked really hard to make sure I’ve had a great and varied career.”

To celebrate the anniversary of his Joseph win, the star released his fifth album, Lee Mead – 10 Years, earlier this year which features several of the singer’s favourite tracks including, of course, Close Every Door. But with over 200 songs from his five previous tours and shows to choose from, how did he set about narrowing them down?

“It was the balance of what I think the fans will like and enjoy. I had to do a few from Joseph, because that essentially made me,” he explains. “And then I thought it would be nice to do a few songs from past shows and albums, as well. Before Wicked, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Legally Blonde, I was in Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon, too. So I really do have a huge catalogue of great songs and music that I love to sing.”

And with the anniversary album comes a 26-date tour across the UK, where he will be performing at the Epsom Playhouse on 29 July and finishing in his hometown of Southend in November. Luckily, Lee admits, he only has to hit the stage on the last Sunday of each month, however, there was still a mountain of preparation before he felt confident enough with the show.

“A lot of work was involved organising this tour - band rehearsals and arrangements to write, as well as all the lyrics to revisit,” he says. “I’m most confident when I feel prepped and ready. But it’s been amazing to get back on the road again. I really do enjoy doing TV and playing leads in musicals, but it’s my own shows… they’re what I love the most because they’re mine and I get to be myself. I tell stories, sing some great songs and get to explore different cities and towns.”

Having done so many shows over the past ten years, has he seen a difference in the audiences that are coming to see him? “Since Holby, I have noticed a lot more teenagers – a big chunk of the audience seems to be 15-to- 16 year olds,” he laughs. “But I do get a varied age range. My youngest fan is called Kerry, bless her. She’s followed me since she was six and she comes to all my concerts. She’s now 18 and that makes me feel really old! And then I have some fans who are in their 90s – it’s a real mix and I am fortunate that a lot of people love musicals.”

It’s no mean feat being able to successfully combine stage shows, tours and TV filming, but Lee believes he’s fortunate to have found the perfect fit and, having just signed another year with Holby City playing nurse Ben ‘Lofty’ Chiltern, sees no need to make any huge changes – for the time being.

“Lifestyle-wise, it really suits me at the moment. After 15 years in musicals, I actually get weekends off now, and when I have a quieter storyline, I don’t have to go in, so I get to see my daughter a lot more,” says Lee, who was married to Loose Women presenter Denise Van Outen, when their daughter Betsy was born in 2010. “And because Betsy is seven it’s an important time for me to be around. Holby is such a fantastic primetime show, and I am really happy there. Not only do I have a great part, but they’re amazing to let me go off and do my tours, concerts and pantos.”

Although it must be difficult to switch between performing live on stage and being in front of the cameras? “It’s definitely a very different way of working. Like today, for instance, I was up at 4.30am to be on set. And when you’ve got a big storyline, then you have a 12-hour day that can be quite slow paced,” Lee explains. “With theatre, it’s that adrenaline you have with a live audience, but you’re only on for a few hours. It’s also much more physically demanding. I did panto last Christmas [Cinderella at the London Palladium] and it was exhausting! In TV you get nice tea breaks – although I avoid the BBC catering now as I put on over a stone while filming as I was eating too many pasties!”

So with a decade of show business under his belt, what can we expect to see from him next? “I do take it as it comes really, but I try and be proactive about it,” says Lee. “I have been approached to do a few musicals but I’m still undecided. There’s also potentially talk of a book, which is quite exciting. I was actually approached to do an autobiography after Joseph, but I declined. I just thought that it would be much more interesting in ten years’ time when I have more to talk about and, fortunately, lots has happened since then, not just in work, but personally, too. I’ve been on a really long journey and I feel very lucky.”

 Catch Lee Mead at the Epsom Playhouse Sunday 29 July

Images ©Nicky JohnstonImages ©Nicky Johnston