Star of the West End Lee Mead lit up the stage - and the Christmas lights - at the Harlequin Shopping Centre tonight.
The 31-year-old stage sensation, winner of the 2007 BBC series ‘Any Dream Will Do’, performed songs from his three solo albums for hundreds of fans at the Harlequin’s Lower High Street entrance.
Mr Mead, from Southend, said he was glad to be back in Watford again after performing in the Colosseum earlier this year.
He has spent the last ten weeks in Los Angeles, getting ready for the television and film ‘pilot season’ where he is hoping to pick up some acting roles.
He said: “I’ve done lots of musical theatre in the past ten years and as an actor you want to play as many roles as you can.”
After attending performing arts college, Mr Mead performed in cabaret on a cruise ship before moving to musical theatre in 2004.
In 2007 he auditioned for ‘Any Dream Will Do’, a television competition which pitted 10,000 wannabe actors against each other in order to win a starring role in ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’.
He said: “The show really raised my profile and opened many doors for me, because people know what you can do.
“It was very intense, you only have four days during the week before going on television on the weekend, but I was ready for it.
“After spending three months in front of ten million people every week, the final was really surreal. It felt like it was happening to someone else, a real relief.
“Life since then has been brilliant, I did an 18 month run as Joseph and then I was ready for a break, I needed some time to switch off and I wanted to get married.”
Following ‘Joseph’ Mr Mead announced his engagement to television star Denise Van Outen in 2009.
Ms Van Outen, who had to rate Mr Mead’s performances as a judge on ‘Any Dream Will Do’, is now competing in the BBC dancing programme ‘Strictly Come Dancing’.
He said: “I told her ‘it’s your turn to be judged now’. It’s hard, but you’ve got to take each week as it comes.”
As well as a panto run in Southampton, Mr Mead has gigs in Singapore and the UK on the horizon, but is most looking forward to Christmas at home with his wife and two and a half year old daughter Betsy.
Mr Mead said: “As an actor you have to be quite selfish to do well as there is so much competition, after she was born I had to completely reassess, but it’s the most fantastic thing in the world.
“Seeing Betsy enjoy Christmas is going to be the best bit for me.
“My perfect Christmas is at home in Kent front of our log fire, it sounds really boring but it’s great. I don’t want much, just to be with my family."
He said his routine before performing is a simple vocal warm up, and added: “I always get a buzz before I go on, whether it’s before I turn on the Christmas lights or walk on stage in Wembley.”
As well as an appearance from Father Christmas, the waiting crowds enjoyed two songs by Mr Mead, before a countdown and the official lighting of the festive illuminations, at 7pm.
Christmas is traditionally the busiest time of the year for retailers, and the lighting of the shopping centre’s illuminations marks the start of the shopping season, but with the country still in financial dire straits, how hopeful are the staff at the Harlequin?
Michael Stevens, general manager of the centre, said he had high hopes for the centre’s retail performance this year.
He added: “I’ve been very excited about 2012 so far, the new Apple Store has been like a magnet in a bowl of iron filings, and we are opening a new Lego store too.
“The weather in September and October has been great for us, with an early frost and some rain, because British customers won’t buy winter goods until it feels like winter.”
The town is currently undergoing widescale redevelopment in the Parade, and with new retailers moving into the Met Quarter and Lower High Street.
Dorothy Thornhill, mayor of Watford, said: “You’ve got to be at the top of the game to survive and without redevelopment pulling us up a notch we will die.
“We have to thrive, or die, and I’m not willing to preside over that. Shopping is a leisure thing and a family activity and we want people to come to Watford and not elsewhere.”
Mr Stevens said that even with the new planned shops, the Harlequin centre was still an important retail destination for the town.
He added: “Retail is a dynamic industry, what is favoured today is not necessarily what’s favoured tomorrow. I remember when Apple was just the name of the Beatle’s record label.
“Customers are moving to larger shopping centres and the people who are suffering are the smaller outlets and towns with small High Streets.
“With the redevelopment of the Met Quarter and the Croxley Rail Link, this end of the town will suddenly have a whole lot of life squeezed into it.”