Wichita native Chris Mann places fourth on ‘The Voice’

05/08/2012 5:00 AM

05/08/2012 11:06 PM

Wichita native Chris Mann didn’t win “The Voice” on Tuesday night. The title on the NBC singing competition went to Jermaine Paul, a 33-year-old former backup singer for Alicia Keys.

But Mann’s friends and family here say that the exposure the show gave Mann will help him catapult a singing career he’s already spent more than a decade building.

“He’ll be fine,” said his sister, Becky Mann, who watched the finale with a group of friends at her parents’ house in Wichita. “It would have been incredible if he had won, but it’s also incredible that a classically trained vocalist made it into the finals of this kind of show.”

Mann, 30, will be in Wichita on June 16, performing as part of the LIV Fest at the Orpheum Theatre, 200 N. Broadway. The time of his performance will be announced later, Orpheum officials said.

On Tuesday night’s two-hour finale, Mann came in fourth of the four finalists. He was gracious in defeat, thanking viewers for giving him a chance and giving Paul a long hug after he was named the winner. The two had been roommates while the competition was airing.

He used his time competing on the show to establish himself as a classical singer, and he specialized in soaring versions of songs such as “Ave Maria.” The style was more true to who he really was, Mann told the crowd and the judges, who included his mentor, pop star Christina Aguilera.

Week after week, Mann – who studied opera at Vanderbilt University in Nashville – easily advanced to the next round of the show, whose winners were determined by viewer votes.

Mann turned 30 last week. He graduated from Southeast High School in 2000.

The son of Patti and Mike, a local Dillons pharmacist, Mann started vocal lessons at age 15 at Wichita State University, and while in high school he worked in two Music Theatre of Wichita companies.

He spent his post-college years trying to make a name for himself in Los Angeles, and he scored several high-profile gigs. He recorded his own album; performed on soundtracks for “Glee,” “Sex and the City 2” and “Avatar”; toured with singer India Arie and “Glee” and “Wicked” star Idina Menzel; and sang on commercials. In late 2010, he was cast as a Warbler, a popular group of singers on “Glee,” and he appeared on several episodes.

Those who knew Mann as a teenager in Wichita say his star power was always evident.

John Boldenow, a Wichita director and actor, remembers directing Mann in a Music Theater for Young People performance of “Grease,” where Mann starred as Danny.

He remembers Mann as one of the most focused and talented people he worked with over the years.

Boldenow describes Mann’s voice as a “divine gift” and said that during the season of “The Voice,” he found himself wishing that the winner was determined differently.

“I understand the process has to be a commercial process,” he said. “But I wish it were a little less about the voting and a little more about the talent.”

But Mann’s high school friend, Abby Bloxham, who lives in Wichita and still is in regular contact with Mann, said that his fourth-place finish could be more of a positive than a negative.

“When you look at shows like this one and ‘American Idol,’ I think that more of the people who make it are the ones who didn’t win,” she said. “He’s going to have a record deal, no question about it. I think it’s better that he’ll get to choose who he works with.”

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