My United: Mazz Murray
After a memorable and inspiring collaboration with Manchester United Women's head coach Casey Stoney and her players in MUTV’s brilliant ‘Centre Stage’ documentary earlier this year, MAMMA MIA! leading lady and lifelong Red, Mazz Murray, tells us why that and so many other United memories will always hold a special place in her heart…
How, why and when did you become a United fan?
I became a United fan through my mum. She was born in Lytham St Annes in Lancashire and she was taken to watch United by her relatives and from a really young age was just mad about United. So I was always brought up knowing she loved it obsessively. I couldn’t follow it as much when I started at theatre school when I was younger because I was very busy with that, but when I had my two little boys that whole flame got reignited because they then became desperately in love with Manchester United thanks to their grandma.
What’s the first game you remember watching?
The first United match I went to was in 1995/96 at Old Trafford. I went with Terry Christian and Dani Behr and we sat behind the goal and it was one of the most hilarious and harrowing days I’ve ever spent! [Laughs] They were both presenters of ‘The Word’ and very famous at the time and Terry Christian was famous for being the guy that everybody picked on even though he was a smashing bloke. And Dani was teased permanently because she only dated footballers and when we walked into the stadium the fans made up songs about both of them throughout the 90 minutes! But we won the game so it didn’t really matter!
Who is your all-time United hero?
Can I go for a manager? Sir Alex without a doubt, he was just in a different league to any manager before him and since him. He turned management into an art form and it was during his reign that I think the world started to actually take footballers seriously. He taught players so much in terms of self-respect and how to behave and what was acceptable, and he reminded them that they were icons to the youth and how to behave and hold themselves. He produced gentlemen, not just world-class footballers. And I think he placed football in a different light because of that attitude.
Who is your favourite current player?
Marcus Rashford. Why? Well the last few weeks for one! What he’s done for youth in this country has been amazing. I also managed to get the wonderful opportunity to meet him just before lockdown and he was a gentleman off the pitch. He took time to take photos with my kids who had done drawings for him. I’m sure players after games just want to go home but he was absolutely wonderful and everything you would want a star to be that you take your children to meet. On the pitch he’s a star and off it he’s done so much nationwide for people that are struggling with poverty during lockdown. The letter he wrote to the Government was just majestic. He’s just an all-round heroic guy.
Which team do you like United to beat the most?
Arsenal. I think it goes back to years and years ago when I was growing up around 17/18 and the guys I used to hang about with, many of whom were Arsenal fans and I’m going to generalise here, they were always the rudest about other teams and just so confident that they were just going to smash everyone to pieces. They really liked to tease you and I found that irritating so it’s nice to see them lose sometimes!
How do you follow the matches when you’re on stage?
One of the guys in MAMMA MIA! Neil, who plays Harry, one of the Dads, is a massive United supporter and he keeps his phone backstage and because I hardly leave the stage during the show when he walks on he either whispers the scores to me or shows me with hand movements!
Is there a lot of football banter amongst the cast of MAMMA MIA!?
Between the boys in the show there is banter but us United fans in the cast are the only ones who have done anything about the team we love [linking up with United]… and Manchester United have been so great to MAMMA MIA! None of the others have got a leg to stand on in that sense and they all wish that they supported United!
As the leading lady in the show and ‘captain’ of the cast… which United skipper would you say you are most like?
Hmmm... I’d be Roy Keane! [Smiles] I’ve got a really long fuse but when I snap it’s absolute chaos… if I snap I snap! I feel like I’ve got a bit of [Eric] Cantona in me as well in that he had that amazing sort of self-righteous way about him of ‘I don’t argue because I know I’m right’ and I’ve got a bit of that as well! [Laughs] Maybe a mixture of those two, just call me Roy Cantona or Keane-tona!
Which current player do you think would excel on stage acting and/or singing?
Juan [Mata]. He’s Spanish so naturally he’s my Gipsy King! I think he’d be very theatrical and playful so if I had to pick anyone to go up on stage it would be Juan and I think if I said to him ‘would you just go on stage and sing Volare’ he would… and he’d be brilliant!
Red leading ladies gallery
Go behind the scenes as Casey Stoney and her players spend time with MAMMA MIA! star and United fan, Mazz Murray.
Which United player past or present would you most like to duet with?
I’m going to say Paul Ince. From what I remember from meeting him back in the day he could sing. Wayne Rooney is another I heard that likes to sing… he actually came to see me when I was in ‘We Will Rock You’ as he was a massive Queen fan. He’s got that Irish heritage and although that doesn’t mean you can sing it does mean you are incredibly confident at doing it and loud! So let’s go with Rooney.
If you had the chance to perform at the Theatre of Dreams what would you sing and why?
The national anthem. For me, Old Trafford is just one of the most incredible places in the world and it’s put us on the map in so many different countries, it’s just phenomenal. Singing the national anthem there would be amazing and I’d throw in a rendition of ‘Glory, Glory Man United’ too!
What’s been your favourite experience at Old Trafford as a fan?
Sitting behind Sir Alex earlier this season with my children who did not stop commentating for the entire match! [Laughs] That was fantastic and we won. And after the game the boys had the chance to go on the pitch with David De Gea who took them around holding their hand and it was just the best thing ever.
How much did you enjoy the MAMMA MIA! link-up with Casey and the Women's team as part of International Women’s Day?
I absolutely loved it. I was really excited to go and meet Casey and the girls and I didn’t really think it through in terms of how daunting it was going to be being in a room full of athletes and elite sports women. They are the best of the best and meeting Casey was such an amazing honour and I fell in love with her. She’s so talented, wonderful and strong and you can see why the players love her and depend on her, and you can see the strength and inspiration she gives them. I found it such a rewarding day and it really humbled me. We think of what we do in theatre and there are so many parallels and similarities between performers and athletes like the United Women’s Team because when you’re dealing with a vocation, whether it’s sport or show business or anything like that, there are no rules about where you come from in terms of talent. Everything in the news at the moment is about privilege and what you’re given, but there’s no money in the world that can make you sing a song and move somebody or make you score a goal. These are skills you just have. You are born with a flair to improve upon and because of that there is absolutely no saying what background you come from. Every journey is so individual and I recognised that when I was in the room with the girls. Some had come from unbelievably humble beginnings, some hadn’t, and it was just amazing to see the parallels. Just like us in theatre, they have this common love and common passion in football and it unites you. It sounds like a cliché but it’s what makes a team – you are part of a ‘club’ and that club doesn’t see race, it doesn’t see colour, it doesn’t see financial upbringing; you are there because you are one of the best at what you do. And there is nothing quite like that feeling.
And we get to see some of your football skills on show in ‘Centre Stage’ don’t we…
I showed off my football skills under duress! And I should say my football SKILL, which is that I can walk with a football! [Laughs] I took a penalty at the end of the training session which Rambo [United Women goalkeeper Emily Ramsey] let me score although the story I prefer to tell is I smashed the ball home and scored purely through skill… and it was hailstoning at the time, so you know it was in difficult conditions as well! [Laughs]
We hear Casey and the girls will be making a trip to the Novello Theatre to see you and the MAMMA MIA! cast perform once theatres reopen…
Yes absolutely. We can’t wait to welcome them all to the show. Casey of course came to visit me at the theatre for the link-up with United which was brilliant. We’re hoping to be back soon, when it’s safe of course, and it will be fantastic to have Casey and the girls here and I know they’re excited to see the show – there’s definitely a couple of the girls who can sing as well as play football really well!
Sadly the Women’s Super League has been cancelled for the rest of the season, but how pleased are you to see Ole’s men back in action?
I’m so happy football is back although it’s so strange with no fans. It’s a bit like watching a concert that’s being televised with no audience and you finish an amazing song and there’s total silence, like when a goal is scored. We’re so used to hearing the atmospheres. It’ll be interesting to see how it affects games and results and players because so much of that adrenalin is drummed up by the crowd and the fans cheering and shouting, and all that positive and negative energy is what some people perform with. It’s great to have Rashford and Pogba back fit again and I love Bruno. I’m just thrilled football is back and hopefully it will be a strong end to the season for us, ideally with a trophy or two.
MAZZ MURRAY – DID YOU KNOW?
-Mazz comes from a family of showbiz – her dad is legendary songwriter Mitch Murray CBE, her mum is renowned film actress and singer Grazina Frame and her sister Gina is a fellow West End star.
-Mazz has appeared in numerous TV roles and starred in some of the biggest theatre productions in the West End, namely ‘We Will Rock You’, ‘Chicago’ and ‘MAMMA MIA!’ in which she is currently the show’s leading lady, playing Donna Sheridan.
-She is the longest-running cast member from Queen's iconic ‘We Will Rock You’ West End show, playing the part of the Killer Queen for nine years.
-Mazz has performed at Buckingham Palace twice, firstly with the ‘We Will Rock You’ cast for Party At The Palace to celebrate the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 and for the Olympic Games torch ceremony ahead of London 2012.
-Her debut album ‘Midnight Mazz’ went straight into the album charts Top 10 when it was released in 2018. She is currently recording her second album.
You can watch ‘Centre Stage’ starring Mazz and Casey in the MUTV Shorts section on MUTV On Demand now. Find out more about watching Mazz perform in MAMMA MIA! at the Novello Theatre via MAMMA-MIA.COM and discover more about Mazz on MazzMurray.com