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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Southeast High grad gleeful about TV experience


Editor's note: A previous version of this column listed Mann's alma mater incorrectly

Southeast High grad Chris Mann has done a lot to distinguish himself since fleeing Wichita for a showbiz career in L.A.

He's recorded his own albums, opened up for both India.Arie and for "Wicked" star Idina Menzel on tours, and had his original songs picked up by major advertisers.

But his most exciting career development has just recently developed — that is, if you're a "Gleek."

These days, Mann is best known among friends, family and fans as "Warbler # 6."

He's appeared in two episodes of the hit television show "Glee" as a member of the elite, uniformed show choir at Kurt's new private boys school.

In August, I wrote about Mann's growing career in this column, and I'd heard recently that he was a Warbler.

Though he's not featured in the role, he's easily spottable — dancing and singing on the left side of the back row as head Warbler, actor Darren Criss, does his thing.

On his blog, chrismannmusic.com, Mann details his experiences working the "Glee" set, which he said was quite exciting.

He already was friends with Chris Colfer, who plays Kurt, and Lea Michele, who plays Rachel. He'd known them from other projects and has worked as a singer on five "Glee" albums — a gig that helped him get the Warbler job.

Mann said he had the most fun filming the episode that ran Tuesday titled "Special Education."

SPOILER ALERT, IF YOU'RE NOT CAUGHT UP.

The Warblers play a big role in the episode, competing against New Directions at the sectionals competition.

Mann and his fellow Warblers spent two days filming the competition scene, in which Criss leads the group through a harmonic rendition of Train's "Hey, Soul Sister." (Criss has become an immediate star for his version of "Teenage Dream" from the first Warbler episode, Nov. 9's "Never Been Kissed.")

The scene was filmed about five weeks ago during two 15-hour days, Mann said. On day one, it was filmed from the front. On day two, it was filmed from the back.

A live audience filled the theater, which made the performance even more fun, Mann said.

Mann does a mean "step, touch, snap" move in the back row during the Warblers' number. And while New Directions is performing, he's sitting in the audience.

Although the Warblers got a lot of rehearsal time, one of the most amazing things Mann noticed was that the cast members barely rehearsed at all.

They're total pros, which means they run through the number once and go. Mann said he was particularly impressed by Heather Morris and Harry Shum Jr. who play Britney and Mike Chang and who performed a high-energy dance scene during the episode.

"I think she is hilarious and so talented," he said. "That was what I was really excited to watch film while I was there. She is such a talented dancer and such a dynamic performer."

Though Mann isn't sure whether he'll be called back for more Warbling, he's hopeful. In last week's episode, New Directions and The Warblers tied at sectionals, meaning both are headed for regionals.

Either way, he's filled with glee that he had the experience at all.

"When I was filming that episode and I was watching the New Directions perform, it was completely exciting, and I just remember thinking to myself, 'What we're doing right now will be seen all over the world.' "

See Chris Mann warble

* Miss the episodes "Special Education" or "Never Been Kissed" that include Chris Mann in the Warblers? You can see them on hulu.com.

* Read about Mann's experiences on "Glee" on his blog, chrismannmusic.com.

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