Gina and Mazz Murray are sisters in on the act
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Gina and Mazz Murray are sisters in on the act

Stage Siblings Mazz and Gina Murray reveal why they had to join the family business

Brigit Grant is the Jewish News Supplements Editor

Woman with Brian May
Woman with Brian May

If  your mother was a regular on The Morecambe & Wise Show and
your father composed songs for the likes of Gerry and The Pacemakers (How Do You Do It?) and Tony Christie (Avenues and Alleyways), it’s unlikely you’d grow up to be a plumber.

Raised to the sound of pop music and entertainers’ chatter, Mazz and Gina Murray could sing before they could speak and tap before they could talk, so when both opted for stage careers, their parents, Mitch Murray and Grazina Frame, only had themselves to blame. The spotlight was in their DNA.

“It was the family business,” explains Gina, “Like Grodzinski’s daughters becoming bakers. I didn’t really know anything else and I suppose as a kid I thought, everybody’s life was like this. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realised it was all bonkers.”

Although their early introduction to entertainment had its benefits, hearing their mother’s voice come out of the mouth of actress Lauri Peters as she sang to Cliff Richard in the film Summer Holiday might well seem ‘bonkers’ on reflection, but then so was playing with your dad’s Ivor Novello awards and constantly moving house for work.

Mazz doing Donna in Mamma Mia

It was also a sort of dress rehearsal ahead of the sisters attending Kate Winslet’s alma mater, Redroofs Performing Arts school in Maidenhead, before a move to London sent Gina to mainstream education and Mazz to Sylvia Young theatre school.

“From the age of nine, I always wanted to perform and sing for whoever would listen,” recalls Mazz, who is currently playing musical matriarch Donna in Mamma Mia at the Novello Theatre. “I’m like both our parents and I think I have all their best bits; they do have so many extraordinary qualities.”

The same hyperbole has been heaped on Mazz over the years – “The Mazz Singer was the headline for my best review” – notably for her stage roles as Patsy Cline and Dusty Springfield. But these are likely to be surpassed on Friday, when she appears as Norma Desmond with Ramin Karimloo in Sunset Boulevard at the Royal Albert Hall.

“I cried when I saw her as Norma at Alexandra Palace back in June,” says Gina, who remains Mazz’s biggest cheerleader; the admiration is mutual. Mazz confirmed this when she exclaimed: “I adore her,” about Gina during a rehearsal break.

Mazz and Gina could tap before they could talk

Gina elaborates. “There’s a year between us in age, we entered the business at the same time and we look fairly similar, but we’re very different. There’s a friendly hint of: ‘Oh, wait, you’re working. I’m not,’ whenever that happens, but it’s swiftly followed by a ‘well done’. So even though on paper, we’ve played the same roles, we do them in a very different way.” In the absence of any What Ever Happened to Baby Jane–style rivalry, the Murray sisters do still find themselves playing the same roles, albeit
in different productions.

They have both been Mama Morton in Chicago and Donna in Mamma Mia. Mazz still wears the overalls, belting out The Winner Takes it All nightly, while Gina has acquired a wand and fairy status to play Mother Nature in a Milton Keynes panto. Dressed in a swathe of netting and sparkles for the Jack and The Beanstalk, Gina has yet to start rehearsals for the show, which also features dance group Diversity – “No, they won’t be throwing me in the air!” – but she is fully occupied with voiceover work, which she does regularly for cartoon animations, computer games and English language museum guides.

That she set up her own home recording studio during Covid to keep earning is a sign of her tenacity, but when the single mother of two boys (Mazz also has two boys) adds songwriting to her achievements, it’s hard not to feel like a slacker.

Gina soon to be seen as Mother Nature in Jack and the Beanstalk

“I had plans to go to Nashville and record a solo country album,” says Gina, who has always pictured herself in a Stetson. “The pandemic stopped that, but on the positive side, we still managed to perform as Woman during lockdown.”

Formed ‘accidentally’ in 2009, Mazz, who was then playing Killer Queen in We Will Rock You, agreed to do a charity gig to support her friend, the late actress Rebekah Gibbs, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. The performance of the 1962 track I’m A Woman with other West End stars – Kerry Ellis, Anna-Jane Casey and Gina – was well-received, but when a journalist from Woman magazine called to ask the name of the band that wasn’t yet a band, Mazz took their moniker.

“If it had been a journalist from Nuts magazine, our band would be called Nuts,” laughs Gina, who was suddenly part of a rock musical theatre band being offered recording contracts and supporting Earth, Wind and Fire.

Gina with the Jack and the Beanstalk team and Diversity

“We perform when we can, but in lockdown September 2020, my sister, the ideas machine, realised we were all available because theatres were closed and so she asked Queen guitarist Brian May to join us to perform the same song in support of Target Ovarian Cancer and The Caron Keating Foundation.”

The video, which documents the powerhouse collaboration between female vocals and expert strumming, took the song to number one on the iTunes rock charts, followed by a performance at the Royal Albert Hall. Gina is so casual about Woman’s success she could be describing a school concert, but when you grow up in a show business hub it’s just another night.

Mazz with Martin Kemp

The Murray updates continue with Gina  announcing Mazz’s new album, Midnight Mazz (www.midnightmazz.com) – “Plug, plug!” – and the burgeoning TV and stage careers of her teenage sons, JCoSS students Joe and Max, who will doubtless flag wave for each other like their mother and aunt. All the family will be there on Friday to see Sunset Boulevard at the Royal Albert Hall, which is fast becoming the Murrays’ home away from home and, although it’s not a traditional  setting, Jewish entertainers still hold the Sabbath in their hearts on stage. As Mazz says: “Performers have to eat on Friday nights too. Being Jewish helps in this business. Community, support, food, love and humour can help anyone’s life! That’s entertainment.”

www.womantheband.com

Jack and The Beanstalk visit: www.atgtickets.com/venues/milton-keynes-theatre

 

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