Oh what a circus as pop tours give way to telling stories on the stage
Su Carroll talks to Wet Wet Wet frontman Marti Pellow about his role as Che Guevara in Evita.
Marti Pellow is instantly recognisable thanks to a pop career with Wet Wet Wet which yielded more than 25 hits and three of the UK's biggest number one singles, including the seminal Love Is All Around.
Not content with one massively successful musical life, about ten years ago he entered the arena of the stage musical. It is a decision that has paid off, with West End and touring appearances including The Witches of Eastwick, Chess, Jekyll & Hyde, Chicago and Blood Brothers – many of them shows produced by the legendary Bill Kenwright.
Marti is currently in another great musical – Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber's Evita – which is heading for the Hall for Cornwall in Truro. The story of Eva Peron, wife of former Argentine dictator Juan Peron, Evita follows her journey from poverty through to extraordinary wealth, power and iconic status which ultimately led her to be heralded as the "spiritual leader of the nation" by the Argentine people.
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The show features some of the most iconic songs in musical theatre, including Don't Cry For Me Argentina, On This Night of a Thousand Stars, You Must Love Me, and Another Suitcase in Another Hall.
Marti plays Che, a character who reflects the voice of the Argentine people; linked to Eva by destiny, he brings conflict to the story of Eva's rise to fame. In his familiar Scottish accent, he says he is enjoying the pace of touring – a sharp contrast to his pop days.
"It's one of the reasons why I like to do what I do," says Marti. "I like to visit some of the sights. It's a bit of a contrast to the old days. We'd be somewhere at most for a couple of nights and perform in front of 20,000 people.
"I've gone from playing arenas to theatres and I consider myself quite lucky. I've been loving the parts I get, and when you're doing eight shows a week that's what keeps you energised. I'm lucky that I can cherry-pick the roles I do."
So what made Marti cherry-pick the role of Che?
"Firstly it's a beautiful and accessible score – you can just listen to the music. I've told Tim [Rice] that it's my favourite work of theirs.
"I love the way they wrote it and pieced it together. Especially as they were in their early 20s.
"I first became aware of those songs through pop culture – seeing David Essex sing Oh What A Circus on Top of the Pops.
"Now I get to do my interpretation of it. It's about engaging the imagination and telling stories."
Eva is played by Portugese singer-songwriter Madalena Alberto, who has performed in Jekyll & Hyde, Fame and Godspell. Marti says Madalena is "an absolute star" and "was made for the part". And, despite being months into the national tour, he says his favourite scene still gives him goosebumps every night.
"For me it's always the hospital scene with Eva and Peron. I like to watch that and observe the fragility of her life. It's about her journey from a girl of 15 to her deathbed and all the dramatic moments in between."
One surprise for Wet Wet Wet fans will be Marti's beard. "Aye, we've got a bit of salt and pepper thing going on. I'm embracing salt and pepper," he says with a loud laugh.
Evita is at Hall for Cornwall from Tuesday until Saturday, September 28.