Photo: Daniel A Swalec- www.dswalecphoto.com
This Behind the Title is about 7 months in the making. The interview originally took place when the MEMPHIS was in Dallas, TX. Now, the tour is 1,738 miles away from Texas in Providence, RI, at the Providence Performing Arts Center.
The interview is finally making its way to the web now. Along with this gorgeous, previously unreleased photo of Will from Daniel Swalec.
Had I published this interview back in May, when it was slated to go out, I may not have had the platform to tell you about what came from this interview several months later. You will get that story now.
And so, at long last, here is the Behind the Title interview with Will Mann; it is brought to you by Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger tea.
Will Mann plays “Bobby Dupree”- the loveable, fancy footed janitor who sings “Big Love” in Act 2. I first met Will when he came in to replace James M. Iglehart on Broadway while James took a leave of absence to play the “Genie” in Disney’s ALADDIN production two summers ago. I have often said that of all the roles in MEMPHIS, “Bobby” may be the hardest role to cast, so we have been extremely lucky that Will Mann found MEMPHIS and we found Will Mann.
Born and raised in Southern California for 15 years before moving to Dallas then ultimately to Oklahoma for college, Will has no discernable accent to me- the tour cast who travels with him may have more to say on that subject so it stands to reason that I just haven’t heard one yet.
I joined Will in his dressing room in Dallas for a quick 15 min interview before he had to vocalize for that evening’s show.
When we get to the “current beverage obsession” question, Will reveals his obsession with Lemon Zinger tea.
“Oh my goodness,” I say. “When the tour gets to Denver, we have to go on the Celestial Seasonings Factory tour in Boulder. I went to school there and never done it!”
And a deal was made.
Cut to four months later and I find myself in Denver at 9:30 in the morning picking up an understandably sleepy Will and somewhat chipper, Tegan Meyer, Associate Company manager, for what is now know as “the tea trip.” I’m going to point out that Will was on time and Tegan was 5 minutes late, so the tea trip starts with a parking ticket from an expired meter. Denver parking police are no joke. The adventure had begun.
Having never been on this factory tour before, only having heard it was awesome, I suddenly realize I have convinced these two friends to get up super early and go on this adventure with me. “It’s either going to be awesome because it is awful, or awesome because it is awesome,” we all agree.
The tour begins with free tea samples which is a lovely way to start any day and an especially lovely way to start a factory tour. You start with the promotional video explaining the history of the company, which I love because it is “totally Boulder” as in it focuses heavily on the local nature of the business. Boulder, Colorado, if you didn’t know, is all about the hardcore locavore.
Once the hairnets, and yes, beard nets came out, it was officially, on. Will managed to snap one photo of us as photography during the actual tour is strictly forbidden. After realizing that this image was about to be blasted onto the world wide web, Tegan and I lightly protested- “what happens on the tea trip stays on the tea trip”- but the truth of the matter is, we all adored that moment. Are you following Will on Twitter? @WillSingForFood
Will Mann is a distinctive guy to begin with. A towering 6’3”, put him in a hairnet amongst a group of tourists and it gets real, real quick. His delicious baritone voice in the cavernous factory is the highlight of the tour for me- as I have been obsessed with his voice since the “Walking with Memphis” track came out in August. (6:49 in)
The role of “Bobby” does not show off as much of his voice as I’d like, so I’m constantly asking him to sing things for me.
As we enter the Celestial Seasonings factory, Will goes toe to toe with the tour guide- making comments and asking questions as his distinctive voice fills the space like it fills an opera house.
His voice delights me-having studied at the University of North Texas for Opera but finishing at Oklahoma City University with a BA of Music in Musical Theatre- yes where Kristen Chenoweth studied- there is a lot to his instrument; an instrument he protects with a lot of Lemon Zinger tea.
The tour ends and for some reason, maybe it’s the post Peppermint Room high (no joke, the Peppermint is so strong, it burns your eyes), but all of the people on the tour descend into a tea buying fury. When new boxes are added to the discount bin, you would think it was a Black Friday shopping frenzy. And then Will’s voice, calm and full, announces, “People, it’s just tea and there’s plenty of it.”
While still wearing his hairnet.
BEHIND THE TITLE: Will Mann, Actor “Bobby Dupree”
Ontario, CA then Dallas, TX.
Coffee or tea:
Tea, Celestial Seasonings Lemon Zinger
Are you OCD about anything?
Favorite line in the show:
Felicia: “Now you hold on sugar.”
This is not your first time on tour. What other shows have you toured with?
BILLY ELLIOT and WONDERFUL TOWN
You’ve also been a Disney guy, right?
I was in the LION KING at Disney World and played “Bruce” the shark in their FINDING NEMO, which I think is a brilliant show.
Skill or hobby you’ve picked up on this tour:
I’ve started reading books on my ipad and my poker skills have gotten better!
If you were to record an album, what kind of album would it be?
Probably neo-jazz. Indie Arie, Little Big Town, Marvin Gaye, Stephen Swartz, William Finn, they would all influence the music.
What tour city has surprised you so far?
Tulsa, OK, was a surprise hit. I had a very memorable birthday party there at a place called Max’s Headroom which was all 80’s themed.
Favorite theatre so far:
Philadelphia’s Academy of the Arts. Amazing architecture.
I wish I had more time for:
I wish I could pack [blank] in my suitcase:
My best friend and college roommate, John Jacob Lee.
You have a cool ritual that you’ve been doing with MEMPHIS where before the show starts, you go around and make sure you have touched everyone- Jill Morrison captured this happening in this video (starts at 1:16).
How did that come about?
That started with the MEMPHIS tour. I believe that good energy is important and I find that this is a good way for me to connect to the group.