NBC unveiled a sneak peek at the rehearsals from Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert recently and it is awesome. The groundbreaking rock opera starring John Legend in the title role will air live Easter Sunday, April 1 at 8pm (ET) in front of a large audience at the Marcy Armory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, N.Y. With a one-of-a-kind live staging, it will amaze with jaw-dropping spectacle and an all-star cast of impressive recording artists.
The highly anticipated special live concert even will be an exuberant staging of the iconic rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. In addition to John Legend as Jesus Christ, the production stars Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene, Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas, Ben Daniels as Pontius Pilate, Norm Lewis as Caiaphas, Jin Ha as Annas, Jason Tam as Peter, Erik Gronwall as Simon Zealotes, and rock legend Alice Cooper as King Herod.
“I’m thrilled to join the cast of this production of Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert,” Legend reported in a statement. “It’s such a powerful, meaningful musical and I’m humbled to be part of this performance. We’ve already formed an incredible team, and (the casting) certainly brought together some of the greatest talents around to do this work justice.” He’s especially thrilled with the idea of Alice Cooper rocking the stage as King Herod.
“We’re all overjoyed to have world-class musical artist and producer John Legend starring as Jesus,” said Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment, in a statement. “This score demands a singer with an amazing range and an actor with great depth, and there isn’t anyone better to bring this story to a new audience. His casting is also groundbreaking as the traditional image of Christ will be seen in a new way.”
Greenblatt added, “As we continue to expand the profile of our live musicals, we are thrilled to be partnering with Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice to bring a new live staging of the iconic Jesus Christ Superstar to NBC.”
Jesus Christ Superstar is the phenomenal 1970 musical that started as a rock opera concept album by composers Andrew Lloyd Webber doing the music and Tim Rice doing the lyrics. It made its Broadway debut in 1971, and the musical is sung-through, with no spoken dialogue.
The story is based on the Gospels’ accounts of the final week of Jesus’ life, and it is told from the perspective of infamous betrayer Judas Iscariot. As more followers flock to Jesus, Judas grows concerned that Jesus is becoming arrogant and losing sight of his principles. So when Jesus attacks the money changers in a temple, Judas finally turns on his teacher, setting both on a path to tragedy.
It was nominated for five Tonys, including Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical for Ben Vereen who played Judas. Lloyd Webber won a Drama Desk Award for Most Promising Composer—which was certainly prophetic.
“John Legend is a superstar. As a performer, his voice is infectious and effortless. As an actor, he is believable and honest. I’m thrilled he will be able to share his portrayal of Jesus with the world,” lyricist Rice said in a statement.
The NBC special production will be helmed by esteemed British theatre director David Leveaux (Nine). Among the creative team are Emmy Award-winning live television director and executive producer Alex Rudzinski (Hairspray Live!, Dancing With the Stars), plus Emmy and Tony Award-winning costumer designer Paul Tazewell (The Wiz Live!, Hamilton). Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert will be executive produced by its original composers Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice; also as executive producers are Marc Platt, Craig Zadan, Neil Meron, John Legend, Mike Jackson, Ty Stiklorius and Alex Rudzinski.
The show follows in the footsteps of NBC’s successful run of live musical events, including Sound of Music Live, Peter Pan Live, The Wiz Live, and most recently, Hairspray Live.
Upcoming for the Peacock network is a live adaptation of Aaron Sorkin’s A Few Good Men, and a live musical version of Bye Bye Birdie, starring Jennifer Lopez, we hope to see later this year.
Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert airs live Easter Sunday, April 1 on NBC. Tune in.
Margie Barron is a member of the Television Critics Association and has written for a variety of top publications for more than 35 years and was proud to be half of the husband and wife writing team of Margie and Frank Barron.