This week brought one of those delicious surprises that pop up every now and then in the life of a Lee Mead fan - the last-minute (OK, so it was three days ahead!) news that Lee would be joining his Palladium Cinderella, Natasha Barnes, at her late-night show at the gorgeous, new, intimate Boulevard Theatre (seriously, it's lovely - check it out, I just booked two more shows!).
The gig was one in a series of Finale shows featuring some of the West End's brightest stars, and although she fills that bill all on her own, she called on three of her West End chums to add their talents to the mix. Accompanying all was the totally unflappable (despite at least two clear musical gauntlets thrown down at his fingertips) and utterly brilliant Chris Guard on piano.
Natasha had put together a set of music that told something of her story (without a Beverley to ask her questions!) - from her first audition song, to the last 16 bars of Defying Gravity, from a nod to her big break in Funny Girl with Don't Rain on My Parade to tales of auditioning for School of Rock on her due date... Queen of the Night almost resulting in casting wizard, David Grindrod, turning midwife!
Humour was never far from the surface as she talked and sang, often bursting forth contagiously, while her beautiful voice moved between crystal pure and full belt with an ease that belied the vocal skill required. She spoke of the turning points in her career with self-deprecating humour and a delight in her good fortune that would be more than a little familiar to the Meady fan. She welcomed her guests with an appreciation that was enthusiastically shared by her audience and seemed as thrilled as that audience was to be there. From start to all-too-soon end, it was a thoroughly enjoyable night.
But I mentioned guests... first up was an unexpected appearance from Alex Lodge, standing in for a poorly Oliver Saville. His duet with Tash of Suddenly Seymour was a delight. Last of the three to take to the stage was another Tash, fellow Falsettos cast member, the fabulous Natasha O'Brien - another amazing voice. And in between, there was Lee... Tash introduced him by saying how she remembered watching 'this incredibly talented man' win Any Dream Will Do, thinking 'he's wonderful, I might get to work with him one day', and there he was, in 2016, her Prince Charming. He stepped quietly from audience to stage, picked up the mic, said 'hello everyone', nodded to Chris and sang.
Having watched him all year tell his story, setting songs (including the one he sang this night) in context, explaining their significance to him, it was a little strange for me to see Lee just sing... but Let Her Down Easy lost none of its emotional resonance for being presented so simply. I do hope Lee saw this tweet... "@leemeadofficial Thank You for your stunning 'Let Her Down Easy'. Last time I heard it was the last time I saw George at the RAH. You nailed it". Knowing how much he loved and admired George Michael, I reckon he'd be rather chuffed about that. It was lovely too to hear Tash say, as she returned to the stage, how much she'd learned from Lee... about how to run a show and be a nice person and be humble and be kind and caring to everyone he meets. Well said. It's not just because he sings a good tune that Lee's fan base is so loyal.
The lighting wasn't ideal for photography, but there are a few more shots behind the two shown above - click either to view the full GALLERY. With so little in the diary for 2020 (the rescheduled Loughborough My Story gig looms solitarily on the horizon next June), bonuses such as this are a real treat. More please!
Lee's full concert and events schedule (including past appearances) can be found at - CONCERTS & LIVE EVENTS