Sitting a couple of tables away from us in The Delaunay in the heart of London’s theatre land, is Homeland star Damian Lewis.
Most people are sneaking covert glances at him. What the other diners don’t realise is that they have show-business royalty in their midst, even though she’s not necessarily recognisable in the street.
“One of the most wonderful things about being in musicals is that you get to be a superstar for two hours and then you literally can be in the supermarket the next morning. It’s best of both worlds because you get your ego massaged and have a total private life. It’s probably better than being recognised.”
So says Mazz Murray, who has been a star in the West End ever since she donned a PVC cat suit to play the Killer Queen in We Will Rock You. She was in the show for nine years only leaving when she was seven months pregnant with her first son.
Showbusiness is in her blood, as the daughter of legendary songwriter Mitch Murray, whose many hits include How Do You Do It and You Were Made For Me for Gerry and The Pacemakers and Paper Lace’s Billy Don’t Be A Hero. Her mum, the stage and screen actress Grazina Frame was in many movies and toured with The Stones and Billy Fury before being the Golden Shot girl on the popular quiz show and then appearing in every single episode of the The Morecambe & Wise Show. She was also in the original cast of 42nd Street at the Drury Lane Theatre. Just for good measure, Mazz’s sister, Gina is also a musical theatre star and just about to head off to Singapore to play Mamma Morton in Chicago. The sisters also have a band, Woman, whose many gigs have included supporting Earth Wind & Fire on tour and playing with Billy Ocean.
“I had the most fabulous childhood. Really wonderful,” says Murray, “We would come home from school, sometimes we’d hop in the car and go with mum to Drury Lane and be in her dressing room for the evening, being made up by all the dancers and ending up looking like Lily Savage. Or we would sit out front and watch the show.”
She’s very proud that legendary comedian Bob Monkhouse was her godfather: “When my mum was pregnant with me she was working with Bob on The Golden Shot. When she found out she was pregnant Bob said ‘Let me be the godfather.’ He was brilliant, we used to get the most sensational cartoons sent to us and he’d write us poems, I’ve kept everything.”
Murray is currently appearing as Tanya in Mamma Mia at the Novello Theatre in London, which is apt, as her father is the winner of two Novello Awards: “I’m unbelievably proud of him. So proud. Now I hear my babies singing his songs, it’s the best thing in the world. It blows me away.”
Mitch Murray is the founder of the Society of Distinguished Songwriters, a very exclusive organisation with a membership of fewer than 50 people, including Les Reed, Gary Barlow, Herbie Kretzmer, Tim Rice, Gary Kemp, Guy Chambers, Brian May and Bjorn and Benny from Abba.
“Gina and I did a mash up of Avenues & Alleyways and Billy Don’t Be A Hero at the Society’s ladies’ night. Dad produced us doing it, he’s never produced us before, never sat in on us singing a song, especially one he wrote. It was quite daunting actually!”
Her parents separated when Murray was just five years old but remained good friends. She and her sister were brought up in a traditional way. “Look we’re Jewish and showbiz, we’re in it for the buffet,” she jokes. Then adds “Being Jewish in my industry, it’s all part of being in a club, it’s not about how deep your faith is but a recognition of having a common ground with the people you are around and work with.”
She married Israeli Oren Arush in 2009 in a fabulous ceremony at stately home, Luton Hoo. It was a true showbusiness wedding with Brian May playing a specially adapted version of Love of My Life and Les Reed and Barry Mason rewriting the lyrics of their hit Delilah for the couple. “I was in We Will Rock You, when I met Oren. Brian was my boss along with Ben Elton and Roger Taylor for many years. They advised about my relationship, they knew everything that was going on all the time. Oren proposed and, like anyone else, I invited my bosses! Ben had to wear a yarmulke which he hadn’t done for many years,” she laughs.
“I wanted to sing Love of My Life. Brian said “I’ll re-write it because it’s actually a sad love song, I’ll play it for you”, I sang it while Brian played as our first dance.”.
Food played an integral part of the couple’s romance: “After coming off stage, I’d go to the coffee shop Oren was managing for a tuna sandwich. He would then make me a beautiful tuna and smoked salmon platter. We started dating! Very soon into us dating I saw what a fabulous man he was and what an honourable man, I suggested we go into business together because I felt we were both grown up enough that if it didn’t work out we would be friends.”
Ten years on, Oren and the family run three kosher restaurants: The Kitchen in Edgware and two branches of The Kanteen in Brent Cross and Bushey.
“He understands that business and that market. It is our family-run restaurant and we are very proud of it and our clientele are very precious to us. The Jewish neighbourhood has been unbelievably loyal to us and they want somewhere wonderful to go.”
The couple have two children, Zac aged six and Charlie nearly three who both attend Jewish schools in North London. The family visit Oren’s home town, Tel Aviv, at least three times a year and Murray is keen that her children grow up bilingual in English and Hebrew.
“We do a lot of High Holy Days there. I love Israel, it’s a massive part of my life. Israelis are very vivacious, dramatic. Tel Aviv airport is not dissimilar to my dressing room! I’ve seen duller auditions!”
“Every time I go to Israel, I get my wonderful mother-in-law to teach me something else to cook. I want to be able to feed my kids all that wonderful Moroccan and Persian food at home so when we are in Israel it is home from home.”
Just before we leave, Murray tells a story of when she and the cast of We Will Rock You played the Queens’ Jubilee at Buckingham Palace. “I’d got on the wrong coach, and ended up walking down the Mall in my PVC cat suit. We stayed for the gala finale after our spot. The Queen and Prince Charles came to meet everyone. Prince Charles leaned into me and said ‘The boys and I saw you walking down the Mall!’ They’d been in the car behind me!”
To see Mazz Murray in ‘Mamma Mia’ at the Novello Theatre click here