Denise Neil

Wichita native Chris Mann starring as ‘Phantom’ on national tour

Wichita native Chris Mann has been cast as the lead in the national tour of “The Phantom of the Opera.”
Wichita native Chris Mann has been cast as the lead in the national tour of “The Phantom of the Opera.”

He’s from here … The Phantom of the Opera.

Chris Mann, a 32-year-old Wichita native and 2000 Southeast High graduate who earned fame when he placed fourth on the second season of NBC’s “The Voice,” has just earned a big leading role that many music theater fans will recognize.

He’s been cast as The Phantom in the national tour of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “The Phantom of the Opera” and will join the show for a year-long cross-country commitment starting Nov. 25 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

“I grew up listening to it,” said Mann, calling recently from Los Angeles after a long day of rehearsal. “My sister in Wichita was obsessed with it and knows every word. She was probably more excited than me. But it’s always a part I wanted to play.”

Mann, who as a teenager worked in two Music Theatre Wichita seasons and even once starred as Danny in a Music Theatre for Young People production of “Grease,” has had a busy two years since his season of “The Voice” wrapped up in the spring of 2012.

He released his debut album “Roads.” He performed as part of the televised Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree Lighting in 2012 and that same year performed for President Obama as part of TNT’s “Christmas in Washington.” He also recorded his own PBS concert special, “Chris Mann in Concert: A Mann for All Seasons,” and embarked on a 70-date headlining concert tour in the spring of 2013.

When he found out about the “Phantom” auditions, Mann said, he was immediately interested. In addition to the music theater resume he amassed in Wichita, he majored in opera at Vanderbilt University in Nashville. Before auditioning for “The Voice,” he performed on soundtracks for “Glee,” “Sex and the City 2” and “Avatar”; toured with singer India Arie and “Wicked” and “Frozen” star Idina Menzel; and sang on commercials. In late 2010, he was cast as a Warbler, a popular group of singers on “Glee.”

All of that experience will be useful on his new job, Mann said. He’ll travel from city to city, performing at each stop for a week or two. By the time he’s finished, he’ll have performed the show between 400 and 500 times.

That’s a lot of “Music of the Night.”

“This is sort of the lifestyle, and I’m going to learn how to do that,” said Mann, who also got married a year ago. “I’m excited that I get to spend a decent chunk of the winter in Florida.”

The tour is referred to as “a spectacular new production” of Phantom by its producer, Cameron Mackintosh. Though the music is the same, some of the staging and sets have been reinvented.

The show, which is 30 years old, is based on the French novel “Le Fantome de l’Opera” by Gaston Leroux. It tells the dramatic story of a beautiful young opera singer who is haunted by a mysterious and dangerous tutor, who appears only in the shadows, his deformed face half-covered by a white mask.

“It’s edgier,” Mann said of the new production. “It’s fresh but still has all of the music and the costumes and the chandelier. For anyone who has seen it, it will be a new experience.”

Mann said he wants to continue with his recording career and has a second album almost ready to go. But if being the Phantom leads him to a career on Broadway, he’d be more than open to that, too, he said.

“I’m very fortunate to be working with people I’m working with,” he said. “The music director on our tour is also the director for ‘Les Miz’ on Broadway. I’m feeling very honored to be here.”

The closest the tour will get to Wichita is Tulsa, where Mann will perform as the Phantom from April 15-25. It’ll also be in St. Louis from March 4-15.

For ticket information, visit www.thephantomoftheopera.com/ustour.

Reach Denise at 316-268-6327 or dneil@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @DeniseNeil.

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