Following his spell in Blood Brothers in the West End last year, musical star Marti Pellow is returning to play the Narrator in Willy Russell’s hit show during its two-week run at the Lyceum Theatre.
“I am a big fan of Willy Russell, I think it’s great writing,” explains the Wet Wet Wet singer who has latterly also enjoyed a career in musical theatre. “Not everyone can afford to go and see me in the West End and it’s great that I can go to certain cities where I have had a good time over the years. The touring production schedule for the time I was available takes me to Glasgow, Manchester, Birmingham and Sheffield, some of my favourite places.”
As a solo artist, and with Wet Wet Wet, Pellow has had around 25 hits and three of the UK’s biggest number one singles, including Love Is All Around. He has also had leading roles in the West End, on Broadway and on UK tours of major musicals such as Chicago, The Witches of Eastwick and Jekyll and Hyde.
Blood Brothers, which tells the moving story of twin boys separated at birth, only to be reunited by a twist of fate and a mother’s haunting secret, is one of the most successful musicals of all time. It has accumulated no less than four awards for best musical in London and seven Tony Award nominations on Broadway while running in London’s West End since the Eighties and touring the UK since 1995 with regular visits to Sheffield.
“Twenty-five years down the line it still pings and has the same resonance it had when it was written,” says Pellow. “There are leassons to learn and that’s down to good writing.
The memorable score includes A Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the anthemic Tell Me It’s Not True, while Pellow as the Narrator gets to sing Shoes Upn the Table and The Devil’s Got Your Number. “Some of the dialogue is spoken and some is sung. The Narrator walks the audience through the story,” explains the actor. “It depends how deep you want to go but he could be the conscience of the two women. I see it as a play with a couple of songs. It’s a powerful piece and Willy Russell deals with some serious issues in the songs. Is life all about those who have and those who haven’t and so is it all based on the class system? How can it get to the point when a woman is prepared to give away a child?”
It is a story firmly set in Liverpool but what accent does the Narrator have? “My background is obviously Glaswegian but we used to holiday in Ormskirk which I know is regarded as wooly-back territory but it was enough for me to get an ear for the accent, so I do a kind of hybrid Scouse-Glaswegian,” he explains.
In December Pellow was in Sheffield performing The Sung Thoughts of The Journalist in Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of The Worlds - Alive on Stage! for The New Generation Tour which came to the Motorpoint Arena on its UK tour and then went on for European dates in the new year. “It’s the first time I have been involved and the score was re-tweaked for this tour,” he says. “I enjoy working and it’s quite an eclectic piece and it was nice to work again with Kerry Ellis. We did Chess together at the Royal Albert Hall for PBS and I’ve known Jason Donocan for years and it was also good to work with new people like Kaiser Chiefs’ Ricky Wilson.”
After his run in Blood Brothers ends at the end of February Pellow is embarking on a five-week acoustic concert tour of concert halls and theatres. “It will just be me at a piano, singing and talking. It’s based on the album that’s coming out in March called Hope which is my take on songs from musical theatre.
“It’s got stuff like Sondheim which will show how it has educated me as much as the audience and how far I have progressed in 10 years,” he says .
“The concert is not like Wet Wet Wet touring to audiences of 10,000 a night, it’s more about leaning into the audience in an intimate environment. It’s a way of exploring and pushing myself as a singer,” he continues.
And what about Wet Wet Wet, are there plans to tour with them again? We’ll tour again but only when we feel it’s right. It’s got to be interesting for us and show where we are as songwriters. When we have new songs as well as the old ones. It will take time but that’s up to us. We have a back catalogue that would choke a horse but that’s not going to go away, so there’s no hurry for us
Blood Brothers opens at the Lyceum on Monday and runs to January 26.