Chatting to Woman's Day via Zoom from his Auckland home, Michael Murphy suddenly dashes across the lounge. "One second – I have to run after a child!" he calls out, leaving his wife, fellow singing sensation Rebecca "Becks" Wright, laughing.
Now a father to two adorable boys, Archie, six, and Harry, three, it's been 18 years since Taupo--born Michael stole hearts as a 17-year-old runner-up on the first season of NZ Idol.
Since then, his varied career has seen him topping the charts with a solo album and singles, touring Aotearoa and the US with his group 1. 5star Fallout, taking lead roles in musical theatre and singing alongside Becks in two different cover bands.
Now his new group Written by Wolves is New Zealand's most-streamed rock band, clocking up millions of views on Spotify and YouTube. They've recorded two EPs and an album, and shared stages with Machine Gun Kelly and Limp Bizkit.
So it caught Michael by surprise when the chance arose for a lead role in the musical Chess. Having now retrieved son Harry from venturing outside in the rain, he confesses, "I thought my time in musical theatre was done because I've been concentrating on Written by Wolves – we're just finishing a second album – but then this came up."
The show will see Michael and Becks, who has a cameo role, together in a musical for the first time since they met in 2010, starring in another blockbuster stage show, Rent. This was part of the allure of Chess, say the hard-working duo, who are still clearly devoted to each other.
When they met 12 years ago, Becks had just had her own stint on NZ Idol, reaching the finals of the reality show in 2006. Despite their different tastes in music – Michael prefers rock, while Becks favours singer-songwriters like Joni Mitchell – they became fast friends and started singing together as the duo Becks And Michael.
"It's lucky that we really like each other because we spend virtually all our time together!" says Becks. "When we're singing together, we know instinctively what the other one will do."
In 2019, Michael surprised Becks by proposing on stage at the Civic Theatre – watched by their son Archie.
Later that year, she made news when she auditioned for Les Misérables at 39 weeks pregnant and, a week after giving birth to second son Harry, did a call-back audition, which saw her secure her dream role of Fantine.
Michael and Becks married in January 2020 in a three-day festival of glamping, food trucks and music, having moved the wedding forward from March.
Michael reveals, "It's lucky we did because if we'd waited, we probably still wouldn't be married given what happened with COVID!"
As the pandemic spread and Aotearoa went into life-saving lockdown, like so many entertainers, the newlyweds watched aghast as nearly all the work they had planned for the year ahead was cancelled.
Becks recalls, "We thought, 'Are our careers over?'" But as Kiwis were panic-buying toilet paper and food, the adaptable duo instead raided Kmart for soundproofing supplies and turned their spare room into a home studio from which to record voiceovers.
"I'd always wanted a home studio, but we never got round to it, so when this happened, we had just 24 hours to get one up and running," tells Michael. "I watched two how-to videos as equipment was delivered to the house and that was it!"
The pair performed several charity gigs during lockdown and Becks also used some of the downtime to complete her Masters in Psychotherapy, while rugby-mad Michael started coaching Archie's under-7s team.
With work again picking up, it means the family calendar is looking a bit hectic and they have to rely on relatives for help with their sons, who are already showing signs of becoming budding musicians.
Becks grins, "The boys tend to like Michael's kind of music, so this is a very loud household!"
Written by Abba superstars Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus, plus Sir Tim Rice, Chess features the hit songs I Know Him So Well and One Night In Bangkok. There are just five performances, from 16 June, at Auckland's Aotea Centre.
- Celebrity NewsMatthew and Chloe Ridge: 'We have to put our kids first'
Woman's DayJun 23, 2022
- TVMasterChef NZ's Sam reveals: 'coming out made me a better cook'
Woman's DayJun 22, 2022
- TVMasterChef NZ's Lance Maynell reveals how he came back from rock bottom
Woman's DayJun 17, 2022
- Current AffairsKiri Allan's courage: 'This journey has been a gift'
Woman's DayJun 16, 2022