INTERVIEW: By Hilary Porter

MARTI PELLOW stars in Mayflower Theatre's spectacular pantomime Peter Pan from Saturday December 14.

The former Wet, Wet, Wet front man and musical theatre star returns to Southampton to play the evil Captain Hook opposite television and stage star Darren Day, Union J singer Jaymi Hensley and the hilarious Grumbleweeds.

BRIT and Ivor Novello award-winner Marti has even written the music for his own character.

Meeting me at Mayflower he had just flown in from Los Angeles where he had made the finishing touches to the tunes.

The Love is All Around singer had left the sunshine behind as he greeted me on a cold, damp morning and had clearly acclimatised as he had swapped the shorts and flip-flops for a thick wool navy kilt and walking boots.

But his sunny disposition and warm greeting was enough to chase away any winter chill as he welcomed me with a kiss and asked: "Do you want to sit on the sofa across the room from me and holler or shall we sit together here?"

"That's going to be very cosy", I said as I eyed up the small space beside him on the 2-seater -perfect for getting up close and personal with the heart-throb star!

I have seen Marti perform live with the Wets several times over the years and his energy and exuberance is astounding as he flings himself around the stage and engages with fans, whilst delivering stunning vocals.

I am pleased to discover that he is just as animated, enthusiastic and charismatic off stage as on as he chats away at speed. In fact, twice during the interview he asked me to boo out loud in practice for some audience participation at the panto!

In LA he wrote some panto songs, a new solo album and a musical!

"It's good for me to do different genres." he tells me.

The full details of the album have yet to be revealed but he says: "It's all very much orchestrated with big sounds and mixed with a modern vibe...a bit Hans Zimmer in its sound."

The German film score composer and record producer is known for integrating electronic music sounds with traditional orchestral arrangements. It's clear Marti is as passionate as ever about making music. The new musical is: "Set in Scotland hundreds of thousands of years ago . It's a bit like Game of Thrones and Middle Earth with baddies that come from West Africa because I love that kind of music! Years ago Peter Gabriel switched me on to music from West Africa and I've always loved the rhythms."

He reminds me he has been doing musical theatre for 20 years now.

"It started with Chicago which was a great eye-opener for me. It was a great introduction to musical theatre but I never saw it coming! Ruthie Henshall set the ball rolling. I was doing something for the Teenage Cancer Trust and sang a song with her. A couple of producers were in the audience and they said would you like to do Chicago?"

Had he ever done any acting before?

"No, but as a singer-songwriter you're a storyteller any way so it wasn't a big departure for me. With a good director and choreographer they can bring you out of yourself and you go into the zone."

Wet Wet Wet were famously number one for 15 weeks in 1994 with 'Love Is All Around' . Marti has enjoyed over 25 hit singles and continues to sell out with his live concerts.

He has starred in numerous high-profile theatre productions in the West End, on Broadway and on tour, including: Chicago, Evita, War of The Worlds, The Witches of Eastwick, Blood Brothers and Jekyll & Hyde.

He previously played a dark and smouldering Abanazar in Aladdin and when I point out his tendency for playing baddies he says:

"I know you find it hard to believe," adopting a mocking tone, flashing me a mischievous grin.

"I've always been these dark characters ...It's just that evil streak- I gravitate to that!"he laughs.

"That was clear when I played Jekyll and Hyde. It's the baddie that takes care of themselves. There's more meat on the bone. And in this panto I'm blissfully unaware of the comedy happening around me."

Asked if it is a challenge to keep to the script he admits: "I am aware that I have to restrain myself. It's easy to be seduced by the sound of laughter. "

He isn't bothered at all about working all over Christmas: "You blink and it goes by and at that time of year people come in with a wonderful attitude and also the machine kicks in. It's two shows a day but every audience is different:there is no given that it's a great joke so it will get a great reaction. It's a whole different energy every time and the comedy is all about timing and about the consciousness leading up to it.

"Christmas is a great time to be working in theatre. You look round and see all those smiling faces. I'm not one of these people that goes completely over the top saying how much they love Christmas. I'm not in a constant Bah Humbug state of mind though. There will be moments when I will be Christmassed up - for a few seconds maybe and that's enough for me! I just love walking on a Winter night. It's a special time of year."

Does he miss being in the band?

"Well, you're always working with other people and with writers . I've never been one for just writing by myself. I love collaborations, whether it's my own songs or musical theatre.

"It's important to enjoy where you are now. It's a love and a passion for what you do that ties us together and that never wanes.

You never set out to have a career. I wanted to push the boat out as a writer. I think it's important to not rest on your laurels and I think it's important to bring a discipline to your work and do the best shows you can at all times. I aim to come to the theatre with a smile and leave with a smile."

Tickets: 02380 711811 or online at