Hairspray star Gina's stuck on her home town
Soaking up the autumn sunshine, Gina Murray's glad to be back home, for one week only.
Actress Gina moved around during her youth, but having spent much of her primary school years in St Annes, she’s proud to call the Fylde ‘home’.
She’s back this week as baddie Velma Von Tussle in musical Hairspray at the Opera House, until tomorrow.
“I can’t believe my luck; playing such a great role and getting the chance to home back to Lytham for a week too,” she said.
“I don’t even sound like a Lytham girl any more, it was trained out of me some time ago, although I do end up speaking a bit like I used to when I come here.”
Gina’s previous credits include Mama Morton in Chicago on tour and in the West End, The Full Monty and Fame, as well as TV roles in Witless and EastEnders.
But the lure of theatre is what’s brought her back to Blackpool.
“I absolutely love Hairspray,” she said. “I loved the film, I love Michelle Pfeiffer [who plays Velma in the film], I love the role and I saw it in the West End with Michael Ball as Edna and was knocked out.
“I was touring in Chicago last year, and my musical director said ‘You have to do Hairspray, I’m working on it, it’ll be wonderful - it’s not a long tour’.
“When the offer came in, I really wanted to do it and didn’t really check the dates so didn’t notice it was actually until June, so almost 12 months with rehearsals.
“But I’m thinking of it as two four to five month legs, with a good break in December and January - at least that’s how I’m explaining it to my children.
“Although, they’re in the business already too, at 10 and 12. One’s just been in Wind In The Willows and the other was in Coriolanus with Tom Hiddleston. They have better CVs than me.
“They get it; mummy’s got to work. It helps that we come from a showbusiness family, so it’s very much the norm.”
That family is Gina’s mum, Fylde-born singer and actress Grazina Frame, who was the voice of The Young Ones and Summer Holiday films; dad songwriter Mitch Murray, who wrote for The Beatles and Gerry And The Pacemakers in the 60s and 70s; sister Mazz Murray is also a West End leading lady, famed for being the longest running cast member of We Will Rock You, spending seven years as Killer Queen and with whom Gina is part of the band Woman. And their stepfather is writer and producer Rob Dallas.
Gina lived on Clifton Drive and went to Mayfield County Primary School in St Annes, and says the Fylde is one of a few places she calls home.
“On a sunny day, I feel like I’m in the French Riviera,” she said. “My family are coming on Friday, mum will give the boys more of a tour than me, as I’ve got two shows on Saturday. I’ve been sending them photos of places, like our old home, it’s now an old people’s home, Rosewood Lodge. My mother is excited to show them the Illuminations.”
Gina made her local professional debut back in 2001, in ABBA musical Money Money Money at the Opera House.
"At that point, playing the Opera House was on my personal bucket list, but I’m sure it’s right up there for a lot of performers,” she said. “The Grand is beautiful too. We were in Dublin and the theatre’s beautiful, but modern, and you just don’t get the atmosphere like you do in these old opera houses.
“Blackpool audiences are so warm, as a lot of tour audiences are. The West End is prohibitively expensive for most families, mine included – so to have high quality productions touring and on people’s doorsteps is important.”
Hairspray is set in 1960s Baltimore, when Tracy Turnblad, a big girl with big hair and even bigger dreams hopes to win a place to dance on a TV show, produced by Velma Von Tussle, Gina's character, and starring her daughter Amber.
Tracy also dreams of a world where segregation doesn't exist, giving the musical a chance to explore politics, race and bullying, all wrapped up in a family-friendly vision of bubblegum pink.
“Velma and her daughter Amber are horrendous and vile... And I love them,” Gina said of her character, who is essentially a racist bully.
“They are important characters to get right as there are still people out there with those attitudes. They have elements of charm and glamour which make them palatable but that makes the message of celebrating the underdog so much clearer.”
* Hairspray, Opera House, Blackpool, until Saturday.