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It is a modest soul that appreciates talent in others while overlooking the obvious self-comparisons.
Referring to Evita writers Sir Tim Rice and Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber, Marti Pellow, 48, says: “I can’t believe they were so young when they wrote it – they were in their early 20s! I said to Tim Rice, ‘What the hell were you eating?’”
I point out that when Marti, who plays Evita’s narrator Che in the musical at Dartford's Orchard Theatre until Saturday, June 7, was in his 20s, he and fellow Wet Wet Wet bandmates were writing significant hits themselves. The singles Sweet Little Mystery and Angel Eyes stormed the charts back in 1987, when frontman and poster boy Marti was a tender 22.
“There are similarities,” concedes Marti in his thick Scottish brogue.
“I see the creativity, and how ambitious they were.”
Speaking of his current working relationship with Sir Tim, who penned the lyrics that Marti Pellow delivers so powerfully as Che, he adds: “Tim is a Wet Wet Wet fan – he first chased me.”
While Marti’s working class upbringing in Clydebank did not involve trips to see musical theatre, it is now 12 years since his successful crossover from pop culture to stage actor.
The transition came when he was offered the role of Chicago’s Billy Flynn in the West End and then on New York’s Broadway. “I took over from Patrick Swayze and passed the baton over to Usher!”
But, perhaps because of his down-to-earth roots, it is at regional theatres such as the Orchard in Dartford where Marti feels happiest: “Not everyone can afford the West End or Broadway, so I love touring and taking the show out to people. It’s that engagement with real people.”
Marti – who is touring again with Wet Wet Wet this summer and released a greatest hits album with the band in November – says the biggest gift of success is the freedom to enjoy combining theatre, solo career and life within the band.
“I love to work with different people and have a vehicle to do that. It’s a great way to be creative, and I still get to spend time with the Wet Wet Wet boys I grew up with.”
So when you’re a free spirit who’s performing the same show eight times a week, how do you keep it fresh?
“You can’t make it groundhog day – it’s live,” Marti responds. “The sheer nature of that means that you can’t become complacent because anything could happen. People come at their lines a different way; you put a different emphasis or expression into a performance so it won’t become tame.”
Marti says that putting his own stamp on Che’s songs within Evita, such as Oh What A Circus and Highflying Adored, was no difficulty.
“You don’t change the wheel, you give it new spokes,” he grins. “My voice is very distinctive.”
Evita is at Dartford’s Orchard Theatre from Monday, June 2, to Saturday, June 7. Performances at 7.30pm and some matinees at 2.30pm. Tickets from £25. Call 01322 220000.
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