CONCERT – Lee is more than just a West End boy

IT'S official: musicals are good for you.

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Lee Mead will be joined by Phantom of the Opera lead Ramin Karimloo and Bombay Dreams' favourite Stephen Rahman-Hughes
Lee Mead will be joined by Phantom of the Opera lead Ramin Karimloo and Bombay Dreams' favourite Stephen Rahman-Hughes

The findings last week that a blast of show tunes can lower blood pressure and stress levels ought to make former Joseph star Lee Mead the world's most laid-back man.

But something's got his goat. His missus.

The criticism that wife Denise Van Outen has endured since signing up to Strictly Come Dancing has prompted 31-year-old Mead to leap to her defence, insisting she's not a trained dancer.

"She's never danced with a partner, she's never trained in ballroom," he says.

"The tiny bit of dance or movement that she's done in musicals is as a lead role – you only have a few steps.

"The reason she's done so well is because she's literally training 10 hours a day."

The flak from Strictly's fan forums – inflamed by One Show host Chris Evans – is nothing new for Lee Mead.

He suffered the same fate in 2007 during BBC1 series Any Dream Will Do, Andrew Lloyd Webber's talent quest to cast a new lead for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Lee won the show and made some 600 performances on the back of its success, going on to become one of the West End's leading men and dipping his toe afterwards into acting and recording.

He wed Any Dream judge Denise in the Seychelles in 2009.

He said: "Initially people were saying that it's unfair that I was auditioning because I'd starred in musicals before, whereas many other guys who auditioned had also played a lead role at that point.

"I was still looking to get my first lead. But that's part of the business, really – you've got to expect people to judge and criticise as well."

The Essex-born singer is sitting in the Dance Attic Studios in South London, taking time out from rehearsing some of the 20-odd numbers that make up the reason for tonight's visit to Glasgow. He's the poster boy of The West End Men – think a British version of The Three Tenors, but more Rodgers and Hammerstein than Puccini.

The Phantom of the Opera's leading man Ramin Karimloo and Bombay Dreams favourite Stephen Rahman-Hughes also don their tuxes in the show.

If the trio's one-off appearance at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall – one of only four dates – proves a hit, then they hope to extend the tour across the UK next year.

"Generally, it's very hard to sing songs from musicals out of the show context," says Lee, who also performs Coldplay's Fix You in addition to songs from Phantom, Les Mis, Wicked and Legally Blonde.

"You've got to be very careful what songs you select, I think we've achieved that.

"We work very hard – we've been here every day for a good 10 hours.

"But we play hard as well, so we'll be having a few drinks in Glasgow after the show."

Lee was last in Glasgow almost a decade ago, when he was a lowly cast-member in a touring production of Joseph at the King's Theatre.

"We had a few nights out in the city," he recalls.

"My friend got us to try a deep-fried Mars Bar. It was nice, but it was a bit too much for me – I think I had two or three bites."

His career trajectory since then has taken him across the Atlantic.

He secured a US agent during an eight-week visit to Los Angeles this summer and plans to return to the States in February for the TV industry's pilot season.

"I flew to America to find management and meet a few people – some who liked me and some who didn't," he said.

"I'm starting from scratch out there.

"It could take months or years before I get any work, or it might happen very quickly. It's quite an open book."

The West End Men show is a far cry from his pre-Christmas employment – he's Southampton- bound for his panto debut.

Lee plays the lead in Jack and the Beanstalk to Julian Clary's Spirit of the Beans and Nigel Havers' Fleshcreep.

Yet Lee's departure into comic acting couldn't be more exciting for him as it means his daughter, Betsy, can watch him perform.

"I can't wait," says Lee.

"My daughter is almost three, so it will be her first theatre experience.

"That's going to be special – her first time seeing a show, and seeing her daddy on stage."

Lee and Denise released one official photo of their new addition in exchange for newspapers making a donation to the Louis Dundas Centre at Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Since the arrival of their daughter, the couple have found that organisation has become as important as their artistic choices.

Lee scheduled his return from LA to coincide with Denise commencing live shows for Strictly.

"It's a rule that we had early on," he said.

"We didn't want somebody else looking after our daughter.

"You have kids to be with them.

"I'm really fortunate that I can do a lot of different things, like TV dramas, the pantos, my own albums, concert tours and musicals.

"It makes my career more interesting."

l The West End Men in Concert, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, tonight, 7.45pm. Tickets priced from £21.50 from 0141 353 8000.

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