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Marti Pellow

April 2009

A GLASS of fizz, a canape or two and three dozen journos and competition winners, mostly women, cackling excitedly in a bar behind the Birmingham Hippodrome waiting on Marti Pellow.
Not my idea of a good day out but a colleague had passed on the invitation because she was "scared of him".
The all-smiling Wet Wet Wet man has, as much as it may be difficult for fans to believe, revealed a different side to his character to journalists. More than once.
But when you've endured a chat (and that's a generous term) with Lou Reed: Rock's Grumpiest Man (TM), Pellow doesn't pose any real threat.
And it starts well. I comment on the trim shape he's in.
"Go to bed early," he advises, before admitting he's a gym regular.
"I think when you're doing this eight days a week..."
Pellow is referring to his role as Daryl Van Horne in The Witches Of Eastwick, which comes to Nottingham next week.
Prior to being led upstairs for a one-to-one with the 44-year-old, the assembled journos and competition winners hear songs from the musical performed a cappella by the three "Witches" and a Q&A with Pellow.
He's all smiles and charm. The ladies gush. But oddly -- particularly when there are professional media people among them -- when he asks for questions there's not a sound.
He's more fidgety during our face-to-face meeting an hour later.
I remind him of his last visit to Nottingham, two years ago with the charity gig at the Hard Rock Cafe.
"We thoroughly enjoyed that. It was good for us to get simple like that. I love that environment, you know. I'm used to doing wee shows like that with my jazz stuff or if I'm singing at BB King's place in Beale Street (Memphis), if I go for a wee sing-song and that."
Pellow was handed the keys to the city of Memphis after recording the album Midnight Over Memphis Blues. Such an accolade is odd, as the album hardly put the city on the map. It was already there, with Elvis and Sun Records.
Pellow's last visit to Nottingham in a musical was two years earlier with Chicago.
"This one has a lot more meat on the bone for me. I'm a leading man. It's a leading part. What (also) appealed to me is that it's a very dark piece."
Based on the hit 1987 movie starring Jack Nicholson, Cher, Michelle Pfeiffer and Susan Sarandon (itself based on a novel by John Updike), it tells the story of suburban housewives in 50s America who wish for a dream man and get more than they bargained for.
Lovejoy and Deadwood actor Ian McShane was the first to perform it in the West End.
"By all accounts it was a very grand production. With more emphasis on the production rather than the content, I was led to believe.
"It was too big."
The new version is less fuss more story, more music.
"It's been boiled down and you see it for what it is – three ladies conjure up their ideal man and he rocks their world.
I suggest he must be OK with being groped and fondled after 25 years in Wet Wet Wet?
He doesn't like it.
"You're being flippant there," he says abruptly, looking uncomfortable.
I'm baffled as to why such a question would offend. But from here on in I sense he's like a coiled spring.
How do you prepare to play the devil?
"What's your cut-off point?", he says, sharply.
I don't know what he means. Is he having a go about the past question? Have I lost him?
"What's your cut-off point with that."
"I think it's about engaging your imagination, first and foremost."
Ah, he's back with the musical.
"A lot of people will be familiar with the film (or "fillum" if you grew up in Clydebank.) I remember seeing it 20 years ago. And Jack Nicholson, you know, amazing. My interpretation? Absolutely nothing like it. And that was paramount. If you want a poor man's Jack, I'm not your man. I'm doing this through the gift of song. So it was about engaging my imagination and how I see it."
Because it's a relatively new musical is it harder to sell?
"No. I think you've got to move forward with your musical theatre. I don't want it to be trapped with your Guys And Dolls and your masterpieces like 42nd Street. I think they're wonderful and will always do good business but Witches of Eastwick is breaking the mould a little bit."
It taps into the Sex And The City and Desperate Housewives audience, he says.
"It is quite powerful from a woman's point of view."
It sounds like a girls' night out.
"What I've noticed is a lot of couples," he says, careful not to narrow the potential ticket buyers.
"A hardcore theatre audience as well the ladies who'll obviously come along to see yours truly, I would imagine, as the first port of call. Put bums on seats."
What will happen after the tour he's unsure. But insists he's in a comfortable position to pick and choose projects at leisure.
There will be another solo album "hopefully" this summer and "maybe" another Wet Wet Wet record next year but he's not rushing anything.
"Artistically I've fed that and my belly's full. As a singer-songwriter you know. If it sells a couple of records so be it..."
So, when you're in your car...
"Which one?"
The Ford Cortina.
"Mk1 or MKII?"
Whichever. So you're in your car and the radio is on, then Love Is All Around comes on, do you...?
"I turn it up. It's a great song. Reg Presley wrote an absolute classic. I think Wet Wet Wet's interpretation is absolutely stunning."

The Witches Of Eastwick, Royal Concert Hall, Tuesday to Saturday April 14-18. For ticket details call 0115 989 5555.

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