The moment comes, of course, at the beginning: The iconic overture blasts from the orchestra, and Chris Mann becomes The Phantom of the Opera.
“That’s the trigger for me every time,” the actor and singer says of getting into the head of his masked, tortured character. “When I hear that, I get chills.”
Mann stars in a new production of the long-running, beloved Andrew Lloyd Webber megahit, which opens Wednesday at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami. He has been playing the role for two years in this touring production, so he has had a lot of time to consider the Phantom, his motivations and what makes him so popular despite his stalkerish tendencies.
“He’s a very complicated character,” says Mann, who performed on season 2 of The Voice, competing on Christina Aguilera’s team. “For me, Act 1 is all about him being deeply in love with Christine. He’s been rejected his entire life, bullied and shunned into this isolation. This is the first time he’s had human contact. But because of that bullying — and this resonates today in our society — he resorts to violence. It’s sad. He’s looking for love and acceptance, but he lashes out.”
Recreating the character is a responsibility Mann doesn’t take lightly.
“Being part of a touring production is grueling,” he admits. “We travel every two weeks. The hardest part of the job is learning to handle the workload. Staying healthy is my first and foremost goal. But when you’re doing a long run it’s also important to check in on who the Phantom is to me and look at the relationships with the other characters to make sure it’s an honest performance.”
Mann, 33, is a younger-than-usual Phantom, which he says is by design in this new production, which aims for a darker, more realistic feel (the show is produced by Cameron Mackintosh and directed by Laurence Connor). Mann remains amazed at the visual impact of the set designed by Paul Brown — “it’s literally a character in and of itself” — which enhances the impact of that famous chandelier.
As for the show’s eternal appeal, Mann believes the audience ends up empathizing with the Phantom, too.
“The show has got amazing music and that great, giant set, but there’s also an emotional pull,” he says. “It’s a love story, a love triangle, with Christine torn between Raoul and this dangerous bad boy who you love to hate. But I think at the end the audience understands what the Phantom has gone through. He’s remorseful about how he has handled things. He has a lot of regrets. I think that resonates with people.”
If You Go
What: ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Charles Hart and Richard Stilgoe.
When: Wednesday-March 6, 8 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 7 p.m. Sunday (special matinee at 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25)
Where: Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscyane Blvd., Miami
Tickets: $39-$225; arshtcenter.org