Mann hopes concert becomes tradition
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,”
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.
Wichita native Chris Mann was a fourth-place finisher on “The Voice” in 2012.