Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera” soars into ASU Gammage as part of their Broadway Across America season next week for a twelve day run. Chris Mann, who gained overnight national acclaim on NBC’s “The Voice” in 2012, is the current national tour Phantom. Mann took time during his masquerading schedule yesterday to visit with Examiner.
“I always hoped, intended, that a recording career combining classical and pop would be my niche,” began Mann, who studied opera at Vanderbilt in Nashville and was working on a classical cross-over album shortly before his breakout turn leading Christine Aguilera’s team on “The Voice.”
Having just this week received Broadway.com’s number three ranking in their Top Ten Best Tony-Winning Musicals of All Time, “Phantom of the Opera” is a dream role come true for Mann. The show that features an opera-based storyline and a sweeping, classical music-influenced score has numbers that have nested in pop charts for nearly thirty years.
The title character’s mask and cape have been worn by some pretty impressive actors over the last few decades. Recently (2010-2014), they’ve been most-frequently donned by longtime Broadway sensation Hugh Panaro, with whom Mann was performing in Canada shortly before he got the call for Cameron Mackintosh’s smash Broadway tour production of the famed musical.
“Working with Hugh was a fortuitous spark of aspiration,” Mann confirmed, describing “multiple amazing minds” (inclusive of producer Mackintosh’s), who have trained and guided him as he’s developed the role and made it his own over the last six months.
So what brand, exactly, has this Mann left on Phantom? What might single out his character portrayal from the other masters?
“I really enjoy that final layer when everything comes undone at the end of the play,” said Mann in a tone that became quiet and introspective. “The Phantom has been so hard and tough and intimidating and aggressive…. But at the end he’s just broken.”
After a few seconds of silence he continued, “I like to bring out getting to that emotional place every night. The way I deliver that, I like to think is somewhat unique to me. And I love the audience response that feels like real empathy for the character.”
Though Mann has reached quite a pinnacle with this role, and notes that his solo touring schedule is booking into 2016 when the Phantom tour concludes, he is nowhere near resting on his laurels. Practicing daily and taking lessons weekly, Mann believes “you need to train throughout your entire life.”
“I’ve been taking lessons with our Carlotta character,” he disclosed as a fun little tidbit. Chuckling, he continued, “So the Phantom and Carlotta offstage get along quite well. And she’s a wonderful, wonderful teacher. I’ve really enjoyed getting to use Jackie’s [Jacquelynne Fontaine’s] knowledge,” he said of the actress who he noted is a “Doctoral candidate in Classical Voice from USC… She’s an opera singer.”
Behind the mask is where all the training and introspection and vocal magic come together. Out in front, in the Gammage auditorium that was structurally renovated years ago to support the iconic Phantom chandelier, is where the nearly sold out crowds will be awaiting or deepening their Mann-Phan conversion.
See it: Wednesday, May 27, 2015 trhough Sunday, June 7, 2015
ASU Gammage, 1200 South Forest Ave, Tempe, AZ 85287
Box Office: 480.965.3434 (Tickets $50-$200)