Hugely exciting news broke early on 30 June 2017 when it was announced that Lee Mead would be one of the headliners in a star line-up for the inaugural sailing of STAGES : The Musical Theatre Festival at Sea on Royal Caribbean's Navigator of the Seas. Almost 16 months later, on Monday 15 October 2018, the ship departed Southampton for four nights on board with a day-stop in Amsterdam, docking back in Southampton on Friday 19 October.
What's on Stage had this to say about the new venture and, with more performers added in the months that followed the initial announcement, the (almost) final line-up was as shown in the pic above/right.
The festival at sea concept is not a new one - P&O have been offering classical and opera themed festivals for a number of years - but this venture into the musical theatre genre was breaking new ground... er, waves! The festival followed the familiar format of its land-based cousins with multiple 'stages' and Lee was on board throughout, with his own headline show in the main theatre, as well as a more intimate gig and a Q&A during the voyage.
We didn't have long to wait for Lee's headline gig - or gigs, to be precise - which came on Day 2... the theatre was unfeasibly huge given it was inside a ship, but even so two sittings were required to accommodate everyone who wanted to see the show. The queue was fairly short by Pheasantry standards (in duration if not actual length!) though stairs *were* involved, but by any standards it was worth the wait.
Click any pic for FULL GALLERY.
Following a warm-up set from Kerry Ellis, we were treated to a great choice of songs drawn from Lee's 10 Years tour set, including Bring Him Home, Why God Why and the more recently added From Now On from The Greatest Showman, which will surely find its way to the stage before too long. Kerry returned to the stage for As Long As You're Mine, giving us our first view of their particular Fiyero / Elphaba pairing since West End Men in 2012/13, and Lee closed the set as he had all tour, with a twirl of his amazing technicolor dreamcoat.
The next day, Lee's 'intimate' gig in the ship's smaller (though hardly intimate!) performance space was a relaxed affair. Accompanied on keyboards by his musical dirctor Adam Dennis, he was in chatty mood and fine voice, though complaining that the busy schedule had left him with a rumbling tummy... we shared your pain Lee, skipping meals to get to see everything we wanted to was fast becoming the norm!
On Thursday, in something of a forerunner to his 2019 My Story tour, though without the musical interludes, Lee was interviewed about his life, times, influences and milestones by Michael Davies - and after a slightly nervous start, quickly warmed to the situation, answering questions from both host and floor with characteristic honesty, humility and humour.
He also popped up at various other events around the ship ... dealing a hand or two in the casino (including a winning hand to one of his fans!) and nearly sending the roulette wheel into orbit with a slightly over-exuberant spin, serenading the (paying) guests at a 'meet and greet' lunch in one of the ship's speciality restaurants (Fix You and Only You, I hear), and some ten years after we first saw him perform it at the London Palladium, singing Some of Us Belong to the Stars during Don Black's 'Audience with...', the legendary writer watching on from only feet away! To mention but three.
And if all of that, and the other headline acts, weren't enough, there was also a full programme of musical theatre-themed activities to enjoy on board, including workshops, quizzes, Q&As and a Masquerade Ball theme night. It was a fun week!
Please forgive me for the brevity of the above account, I'm writing it 16 months after the event and, as my friends will readily attest, my memory is shockingly bad! I hope, if nothing else, you'll enjoy the photos - in case you missed it above, click any pic for FULL GALLERY.
And finally, taking a step back in time, Lee spent some time on board the Navigator of the Seas a few months before she turned 100% stagey, having a look around and recording some promo segments, including this interview with Rick Jackson of local South coast radio station Wave 105.
Lee's full concert and events schedule (including past appearances) can be found at - CONCERT & LIVE EVENTS
Published: 30/06/2017; last updated: 25/02/2020