The singer who became a star in the 1980s as the frontman of Scottish hit pop band Wet Wet Wet has now carved out an equally successful career in musical theatre.
He has just been on tour with Jeff Wayne’s The War of the Worlds, which came to Sheffield last month and is now on the road in Europe. His role, which goes by the strange name The Sung Thoughts of the Journalist, includes singing the show’s biggest hits, Forever Autumn and The War of the Worlds.
He is also stepping back into a favourite role as the narrator in smash hit musical Blood Brothers, which producer Bill Kenwright is taking on tour after a hugely successful run in London.
Marti said: “It’s a magnificent piece. Talk about coming from the heart. The last 15 minutes is so powerful. It was never more relevant – it’s about class and those who have and have not.
“There is a punch to it and people are watching their pains, for it’s really a play with some songs. Some of the monologues and scenes are so powerful.
“I’ve done it in the West End. There’s a great following for it. I think it’s a wonderful piece of musical theatre.”
Marti said he is a great fan of author Willy Russell’s writing because of its realism. He said: “The first time I saw it there’s a a bunch of adults playing seven-year-olds. Within a minute of the dialogue being spoken you subscribe to it and away you go.
“It’s just a wee piece of magic.”
Marti admires the way that Willy Russell writes great roles for women. In Blood Brothers, a struggling single mother living in Liverpool reluctantly gives away one of her newborn twin boys to her employer, who cannot have children.
Although the boys later meet accidentally and become blood brothers, both mothers keep the truth from them, telling them that the other brother did not survive their birth. The boys’ lives go in very different directions but their paths continue to cross fatefully.
The show has been hailed by many critics as one of the best of all time, winning many awards in the West End and on Broadway. The score includes Bright New Day, Marilyn Monroe and the emotionally-charged hit Tell Me It’s Not True.
Marti says his role gives him a unique perspective. “As the Narrator you’re breaking through the ‘fourth wall’ of the stage to talk to the audience. In some of the intimate scenes, you can see the whole audience lean forward as they care for the characters.
“It’s a great job that I get to go to every night when I explore that world. I’m not thinking it’s Groundhog Day seeing it night after night. It’s a piece of work beautifully written.”
He is also a big fan of his fellow Blood Brothers actors, in particular Sean Jones, who has played the role of the working-class brother, Mickey, for several years in the West End.
Marti, who still has a thriving solo music career, says that another reason for choosing to do touring productions is that it gives his fans a chance to see him in their home towns.
As well as Blood Brothers and The War of the Worlds, Marti has starred as Daryl van Horne in The Witches of Eastwick and took the title role in Jekyll and Hyde, which both came to Sheffield.
He added: “I’m looking forward to coming to Sheffield again. It is a city with great music and musicians. It is a passionate city.
“The theatre is well supported in Sheffield. There is a great enthusiasm for musical theatre and theatre in general.”
Marti says that he does cherry-pick which towns he comes to on tours and Sheffield was one where he has always had a great reception in the past, so he was keen to return.
He is still making his own music and said he had also been busy recording a new album featuring the work of Stephen Sondheim. He said: “I’ve explored some of the songs I like from musical theatre shows that I have come to in the last 10 years. It’s my take on some of those songs from shows like Mack and Mabel and Sunday in the Park with George.”
That album has prompted an 11-date tour of smaller theatres that he is busily putting together.
So, given the popularity of musicals featuring the back catalogue of many bands and artists, will we ever see a musical of Wet Wet Wet or Marti Pellow solo hits? After all, shows like We Will Rock You and Mamma Mia have achieved global success.
Marti says he wouldn’t rule it out, as long as the songs formed part of a proper story, rather than what he refers to as ‘jukebox’ musicals, where a thin storyline just strings some hit songs together.
“Our songs deserve a better journey,” he said.
Blood Brothers is at the Sheffield Lyceum from Monday (January 14) until Saturday 26.