Pellow, who also played the role of Billy Flynn in the London company of the Kander and Ebb musical, was set to join the New York company in March 2003. Those plans, however, were canceled when the much-in-the-news musicians strike closed 18 Broadway theatres.
About that experience, the good-humored Scottish actor recently told Playbill On-Line, "I arrived [in New York], and the first couple of days everything was kind of sweet. Suddenly, there was a musicians strike. I thought it was justified. Being a musician, first and foremost, before I even started in Chicago, I had a great empathy with them. It's so easy for people to take the musicians for granted and use today's technology to shave off a few instruments. . . I'm very much for keeping music live, especially in the environment of theatre. I think that's paramount. So, for me, when I heard what the fight was about, it was a no-brainer. . . It wasn't my time to come to Broadway, so I jumped on the Concorde and came home!"
The London company of Chicago marked the first theatrical experience for Pellow, who scored several Top- Ten hits with his band, including "With a Little Help from My Friends," "Goodnight Girl" and "Love Is All Around." It was during a benefit concert at the Royal Albert Hall when Chicago producers first encountered the Wet Wet Wet star. "[The Chicago producers] approached me and asked if I would be interested in being in a musical. A few years before that Pete Townshend had asked me to do Tommy. It's funny how people see other things in you. I was kind of scared because of my ignorance about musicals. I said, 'Thanks for the interest, and let me come up and see the show.' Once I went to see the show, I loved the whole Kander and Ebb score and thought it was absolutely fantastic and thought I could bring something to the table. With the right coaching and the right help, I thought it was very achievable."
Since that time, Pellow has also performed the role of the slick lawyer in Dublin, Glasgow, Liverpool, Tokyo and Birmingham. When asked about his approach to the character, Pellow jokes, "Having met a few slimy lawyers in my day, it wasn't exactly rocket science to draw inspiration." He also adds, "I think what I enjoy about the Chicago piece in general is it's so relevant today. I think if you do have enough money, you can get off with murder."
Pellow will stay with the Broadway company through Sept. 8. Then, he will return to Europe to reunite with his former band members, who recently reentered his life. "My mother passed away," explains Pellow, "and they all came to her funeral. . . It kind of put things into perspective — we're a day older and a day wiser. Out of that very sad period in my life, something positive came, and I think that's very special." *
Chicago won the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical in 1997 as well as awards for actors Bebe Neuwirth and James Naughton, director Walter Bobbie, lighting designer Ken Billington and choreographer Ann Reinking. The original production was directed and choreographed by the late Bob Fosse.
On Broadway, Chicago plays the Ambassador Theatre, 219 W. 49th Street.