Chris Mann returns home

WRITTEN BY AMY PALSER

When “The Voice” finalist and Billboard chart-topper Chris Mann returns to perform in his native city next month, he’ll be doing it with plenty of fanfare.

Mann, who graduated from Wichita Southeast High School in 2000, is performing in a one-of-a-kind Christmas gala concert featuring more than 200 singers and musicians on stage — including singer/dancer Kaitlyn Costello, the Wichita Grand Opera Orchestra and Chorus, and Wichita Community Children’s Choir, among others.

And the icing on the cake? Mann is also bringing wife Laura and their new baby to experience Wichita — something the new father is very excited about. “It’s been like six years since I did a proper concert in Wichita, and I’ve never done a holiday orchestra concert. It will be a first, for sure,” he said. “It’s actually going to be kind of a huge concert.”

“Chris Mann: Home for Christmas” is 7 p.m. Dec. 9 at Century II Concert Hall. Tickets are available at Century II, Intrust Bank Arena Box Office, or by calling the WGO Box Office at 316.262.8054.

Audience members can expect holiday favorites like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Sleigh Ride” alongside popular Broadway standards. That’s a perfect fit for Mann, who starred in the title role in more than 700 performances of “The Phantom of the Opera” North American tour.

“I just love the holidays anyway, so between this chorus and the symphony and this music, it’s going to be such a beautiful night in general, so I think it’s very exciting,” he said. “This is a one-of-a-kind thing. It’s not something that’s going to happen in another place; it’s something that’s been custom tailored for Wichita.”

Mann is also excited to work with internationally renowned conductor Steven Mercurio, who he has known of throughout his career but with whom he has never worked. “He’s going to bring a caliber that’s world-class,” Mann said. “Because I know Steven and I know what Wichita has, I hope people realize what they’re about to get with this concert. It’s not like a simple holiday concert; this is like a world-class event.”

Mann had plenty of stage time in Wichita during his formative years. As a student at Southeast High School, he performed in the choirs Madrigal and Gold Dust, and he also held the title roll in three performances of Wichita’s Music Theater for Young People.

After graduating from Vanderbilt University in Nashville in 2004, Mann performed in operas in Europe and did studio work in Los Angeles on such films as “Avatar,” “Smurfs,” and “Tangled.” But his rise to fame came in 2012 when he was selected as a contestant on “The Voice.” He ended the season in fourth place, having been selected by coach Christina Aguilera. But his career rocketed when he was tapped to don the mask of the Phantom in the famous musical’s 25th anniversary tour.

Mann said he has big career news on the horizon, which will be announced on the “Today Show” this month. But for he and wife Laura — who was also in the Phantom cast — the biggest news is the Sept. 6 birth of their son, Hugo, which Mann calls a life-changing event.

“My career has been really fortunate, and it’s provided us the opportunity to travel and whatnot, but it also makes us a little bit schizophrenic. So we are both feeling really anchored in a way, which feels good,” he said of Hugo’s arrival. “We really feel happy to be putting our love and focus and energy onto him, instead of on ourselves. And that was sort of a big deal for us.”

Mann plans to spend time in Wichita with his parents and sister, who still live here, and to hit up some favorite restaurants.

“I never come home without eating at Bella Luna — that’s a big one for me,” he said, “and probably a Spangles drive-through.”

 
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