Mann hopes con­cert be­comes tra­di­tion

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - Arts & Culture - BY BY DAVID BURKE

He’s had suc­cess as a con­tes­tant on “The Voice” and in the ti­tle role in a tour of Broad­way’s “Phan­tom of the Opera,” but Chris Mann said his fa­vorite night as a pro­fes­sional per­former was last Dec. 9.

The Wichita na­tive head­lined “Home for Christ­mas,” a Wichita Grand Opera pro­duc­tion that in­cluded an orches­tra and choirs and was led by a world-class con­duc­tor.

“I was gen­uinely just blown away by the night in gen­eral,” Mann re­called from his home in Los An­ge­les. “It was vir­tu­ally sold out, Cen­tury II was packed. Peo­ple I knew and grew up with and peo­ple I didn’t know.

“It was just so much fun,” he added. “It was prob­a­bly my fa­vorite con­cert I’ve ever done.”

It was a quick de­ci­sion by him­self and Wichita Grand Opera ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Par­van Bakardiev, Mann said, to stage a se­quel.

“He wanted it to be big­ger than last year,” Mann said. “We’re hop­ing it be­comes sort of an an­nual Christ­mas spec­tac­u­lar.”

This year’s take, on Sat­ur­day, Dec. 1 at Cen­tury II, will have largely dif­fer­ent mu­sic, as well as two new guest so­pra­nos and a phys­i­cal set on the stage.

“It’ll be big­ger-look­ing,”

Mann said.

Also re­turn­ing for the con­cert is Steven Mer­cu­rio, who has con­ducted for the likes of An­drea Bo­celli, Ce­line Dion, Josh Groban, David Fos­ter and Sting.

Mer­cu­rio pro­vided one of the high­lights of last year’s con­cert, when he took to the elec­tric gui­tar for a show­stop­ping solo on “Christ­mas Baby (Please Come Home).”

“That was my one re­quest this year, that I wanted way more of that (in­ten­sity),” Mann said. “So there’s more en­ergy than there was last year, in an ex­cit­ing way.”

Mann said it was a joy work­ing with Mer­cu­rio, and he looks for­ward to this year’s col­lab­o­ra­tion.

“We’ve known of each other for­ever but had never met,” he said. “He’s so much bet­ter than I ever ex­pected, and he’s so much fun.”

While last year’s con­cert was a speedy re­turn to his home­town, this year

Mann will have more than a week to en­joy his trip back. He and his wife, Laura, and 15-month-old son, Hugo, ar­rived in Kansas for Thanks­giv­ing and are stay­ing through the days fol­low­ing the con­cert.

“The big­gest take­away was that Wichita shows up for one of its own,” he said of his 2017 re­turn. “We had such a good time last year, and every­body wants to ex­ceed it.”

Mann is an­tic­i­pat­ing a big 2019, high­lighted by the re­lease of his third stu­dio al­bum, “Noise,” in In­for­ma­tion: March.

Call­ing it in the vein of John Le­gend and Justin Tim­ber­lake, he said it veers from the clas­si­cal/ Broad­way route he has taken over the past few years.

“That’s only one re­ally small part of who I am,” the 36-year-old said. “Pop is more who I am at my core.”

The al­bum’s first sin­gle, “Gen­tle­man,” is out in De­cem­ber. The al­bum “Noise” in­cludes a duet with Grammy Award­win­ning singer-song­writer In­dia.Arie.

A fourth-place fin­isher on “The Voice” in 2012, Mann parted ways with a Las Ve­gas res­i­dency for win­ners of the NBC tal­ent com­pe­ti­tion, called “Neon Dreams,” and spent most of the year record­ing and be­ing an at-home dad for his son.

He hinted at a re­turn to the stage, but not as the Phan­tom, which put him on the road for two years.

Mann is hop­ing his big year starts with the se­cond Christ­mas con­cert in his home­town.

“It’s all ramp­ing up again, in an ex­cit­ing way,” he said.

COUR­TESY PHOTO

Wichita na­tive Chris Mann was a fourth-place fin­isher on “The Voice” in 2012.

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