Kansan Singer and ‘Voice’ Star Chris Mann Is the Phantom

You can bet that by now, Chris Mann knows exactly Dorothy feels. He’s definitely not in Kansas any more.

Mann released an album, “Constellations,” this year and competed on “The Voice,” finishing fourth. He’s a recording star, and — most importantly — he is:

“The Phantom of the Opera.”

The Wichita, Kansas, native and tenor remembers auditioning for the part back in 2014 in Los Angeles, after his work on “The Voice,” and getting the call to come to New York.

“Cameron McIntosh was there, and I have to admit, it was a little bit terrifying,” said Mann, who has the looks of a classic crooner who can sing almost all kinds of music and material.  “I sang ‘Music of the Night’ for my audition, and you know, you don’t try to sound too different, but it’s not just a matter of memorizing the song or the music note by note, either. You have to bring yourself to the song.”

He got the part for the Broadway classic’s national tour, and he’s being doing it ever since.

“It’s a life-changing experience,” the 34-year-old singer said.  “It’s a lot of responsibility. So, in that sense, it’s a bigger and different experience than the kinds of things and plans I had.  You’re not a solo anymore. You’re part of something much bigger than yourself, and we all rely on each other. And, believe me, this production is very different from earlier ones. It’s bigger. It’s more spectacular. It’s very much a part of our times. The sets are really fantastic. It’s a big production.  It moves very fast. It’s a kind of more action-oriented production.”

The company has already toured in many different parts of the country from Norfolk, say, to Miami and the West Coast.

“You know, I don’t think anybody is prepared for an experience like this,” Mann said. “It’s obviously hard work. We had a kind of boot camp preparing for this, but it’s more than that.  You know, you think you know a lot about music, about performing, about fame, about audiences, but you really don’t.” 

Mann’s background suggests a center-of-America life — graduation from Wichita Southeast High School, getting a degree in vocal performance from Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music.  His Wikipedia entry also notes that he is a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity with a pledge name of Buttercup.

He’s a pro. On the resume list: two albums, tours with Katharine McPhee, India Arie and the big-voiced Idina Menzel, plus gigs on “Glee” and a stint in an opera in Italy. But “Phantom,” that’s a major step forward.

“It’s just so different,” he said. “I mean it is the biggest musical ever, in so many ways.”

“Phantom of the Opera”, which runs at the Kennedy Center’s Opera House through Aug. 20, is nothing if not big. It features a cast and orchestra of 52, the chandelier, new sets, all pushing the story of an unusual and haunting love triangle forward.  It is also a kind of classic show biz musical because it’s set in the midst of the super-dramatic world of the opera.

“I don’t have a problem keeping the part fresh,” Mann said. “With so many people involved, that’s not a problem. It’s always a little different, and so many things can happen.  It’s an iconic part, sure, and there have been so many phantoms, but you have to fit the part to yourself, while realizing the expectations of the audience.”

“This is the thing,” Mann said. “We — all of us — love the audiences, and they’re always so appreciative. And you always get a different reaction, a different reception.  We were in Norfolk, Virginia. It’s a military town, and the audiences, while obviously enjoying it, were very polite, very respectful. And you go to Miami, and that was an audience. They knew the show. They were almost singing along, very energetic and alive. That was fun, too, you can feel that kind of reaction.”

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