Unlike many of his fellow contestants on NBC’s “The Voice,” Chris Mann, the hit reality show’s 2012 fourth place finalist, enjoys a flourishing career. The last time the singer/actor visited the area was in September of 2015 when he appeared with Michael Feinstein at the Songbook Celebration at the Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday in Carmel. Soon Mann will return to Central Indiana when he performs in the title role in the North American Tour of “The Phantom of the Opera,” May 4 – 15, at the Murat Theatre at the Old National Centre. The musical is a presentation of Broadway in Indianapolis.
After leaving “The Voice,” Mann recorded his first album “Roads,” and starred in his own PBS television special: “A Mann for All Seasons.” He also performed with the National Symphony Orchestra for President Obama, at Christmas in Rockefeller Center, has headlined his own symphony tour across the country.
byteclay.com last interviewed Mann in 2013 before he appeared at the Murat Egyptian Room in Indy, the second stop on his first North American Tour as a solo artist. Recently this writer spoke by phone with Mann who was in Omaha, Nebraska, a stop prior to his Indy run of “The Phantom of the Opera.”
You have some big news, don’t you?
I do. My new album is coming out next Friday on May 6. It is my first independent record. It’s called “Constellation.”
Tell me about it.
It’s my first original album. We did a crowdfunding campaign and funded it quickly. We recorded this album on the road and it featured some of my favorite songs I have written over the past ten years with some writer friends of mine. It’s called “Constellation” because each of the writers is a star and they represent who I am. There are 14 songs on the record. I also did a bonus track of “Music of the Night,” which is from “Phantom of the Opera,” and paying homage to what I am doing now. It’s a brand new, gorgeous arrangement by the award winning Walter Afanasieff who has worked with Barbara Streisand and Josh Groban
How long have you been with the “The Phantom of the Opera?”
I have been with it for a year and a half. I was originally going to do it for a year but I was extended and accepted so I can keep doing the role.
It seems like this was a role you were meant to play.
Yes, even on “The Voice,” I wore the mask as a spoof. It was hilarious. I grew up loving the show and the part. It’s a role that anyone would be lucky to play and when I finished doing 2013 tour, I had a desire to get back on state as an actor. That is what I grew up doing when I was younger. I actually audition for Raoul in Los Angeles and was called back for the Phantom in New York and got the part.
What makes this production unique and different from the original?
This is the same, beautiful famous story that we all know and love but just facelifted for 2016. It’s a much more exciting explosive, cinematic, gritty interpretation of the show. The farcical and presentational elements that are in the original are removed and it’s a reality based show so it’s scarier. It’s still funny but it’s just a very explosive, current version of the show.
How many cities have you played on the tour?
I don’t know how many cities but I have done over 500 shows.
Between this and your own solo tour, you have seen a lot of the country haven’t you?
Yes, I have and it’s been something that is a real benefit of being on tour. We have been to cities like Toronto, Miami, and Nashville but we are also going to places like Tulsa. We are in Omaha right now which is actually amazing and I wouldn’t necessarily have known that if I hadn’t played here. It’s so cool to be able to see the country.
How long are you in each city?
A minimum of two weeks up to two months. Typical is two weeks but our next long sit down is in is at the Kennedy Center in D.C., which is for five weeks. That run is one of the reasons I extended so I was able to play there.
I bet you have played some beautiful old theaters.
They tend to be beautiful settings in large spaces for such a big show so we get to play the best places around.
Are you interested in the history of each of those theaters?
Sure. A lot of times backstage at these theatres there are these, the show will leave a mark or an image of their show and the cast will sign it. The Fox in Atlanta has a huge history. Prince played there. It was his last performance. Actually, on my dressing room door my signature is right next to Stevie Ray Vaughan’s which is pretty cool.
Does being on the road become a way of life?
It does. Of course, I would love to be home. We have a house in L.A. and Nashville and it would be really lovely to be in one of those (laughs). For now, this is what we are doing and it is what it is but we are enjoying it.
Are you married?
I am now. My wife Laura and I have been together for nine years so when I was on “The Voice,” she was there but when I met you in Indianapolis we were not yet engaged. She is actually in the show as well. She is a swing in the female ensemble. She covers five different tracks.
So that makes it great because you get to travel together, right?
I did the first year on my own and then the first position opened up and she auditioned and got the part so it has been a very fortunate situation. We are pretty lucky and we are enjoying it. She goes on all the time so she has quite a job to maintain mentally because people switch around all the time. It keeps her on her toes.
And has she played them all a lot?
Yes, and I think she did all five last week.
I take it you have an understudy?
I have three.
Do you take breaks?
Not really. I do eight shows a week. I typically do all eight shows, unless I am sick or tired and then I have vacation and I still have a solo concert schedule so I occasionally will leave for a weekend to go do some gigs. But I pretty much go on.
How do you maintain your stamina?
You build up stamina by doing it so much and also learning by trial and error. If you sing with proper technique, get enough sleep and drink a lot of water you can get away with it.
Do you work out?
I do. I am now obsessed with CrossFit which I do. We go to gyms in each city. The best part for me is waking up my body. I can tell if I don’t do something pretty active before the show. My lungs can tell the difference.
When does the tour end?
Well, the tour is going on for years. I am expecting to leave after my turn in October. After that I obviously would love to do Broadway and television and I will be doing gigs to support the album.
Do you still have a “The Voice” fan base and do they follow you?
They do Every night I meet people that saw me in “The Voice” so I have that fan base. I also have PBS fan base from those concert specials and I am very lucky that “The Phantom” fans are very loyal.
Aren’t you one of the few “The Voice” finalists to parlay that experience into a successful career?
Yes, I am very proud all that I have accomplished since the show. You can probably count them on one hand but there are a group of us that are doing quite well. I am lucky I am in a lane that allows me to do what I am doing. I not only record records but also act onstage as a singer in the show like “The Phantom.” I am, indeed, very fortunate.
Do you know Indy’s Josh Kaufman, sixth season winner of “The Voice?”
Yes. I don’t know him well but I do know him. He has worked with a mutual friend of mine and we did a “The Voice” concert together in San Diego, right after he won. I was a featured guest.
To purchase tickets to “The Phantom of the Opera, visit ticketmaster.com, call 1-800-982-2787 or visit the Old National Centre box office (502 N New Jersey).
For information about Chris Mann’s new album “Constellation” visit chrismannmusic.com.