NBC has come out with another live musical event and this year’s big show will air live on Easter Sunday tonight. Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert will feature the iconic rock opera in front of a live audience in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, New York, at the Marcy Armory, according to NBC. Legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is one of the executive producers involved with the show.
The original show was first released in 1971 and the story is centered on the final week of Jesus’ life and now a few entertainment icons, along with newcomers and Broadway stars, are taking on the musical. Musical producer Harvey Mason Jr., who previously worked on The Wiz Live!, is a part of tonight’s production as well and he recently told People that, “One thing we’re really proud of is the way that the cast is such a diverse group of people playing all different parts from different genres of music, different religious backgrounds and racial backgrounds.” Tonight, the show runs from 8 – 10:20 p.m. ET. Get to know each of the cast members and the characters they are playing below.
John Legend as Jesus Christ
John Legend is the star of the show, playing the role of Jesus Christ. Producer Mason Jr. dished to People that even though Legend is a huge star, with a lot on his plate, he is completely dedicated to this role. Mason Jr. explained that, “He comes prepared. He’s doing a lot of different things right now, but he’s focused completely on this show. He knows the show inside and out and I’m really impressed with how diligently he’s working on stage with the cast and the director. It’s a lot of hours, but he’s dedicated.” Though Legend has performed for stadiums and concert venues with thousands of people, he has never done anything on this large of a scale, admitting to the New York Post that, “I’ve been in musicals when I was in high school but never as big of a role. I was excited for the challenge.” Rehearsals were shifted around and other arrangements were made in order to be able to work around Legend’s 10 concerts he was already committed to in Asia.
Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene
Sara Bareilles is known for her hit “Love Song,” along with the Broadway show “Waitress,” so she’s used to performing in front of a large audience. Even so, preparing for this gig can arouse some nerves. Bareilles admitted to E! that, “I can’t help but feel the pressure that this is a one-time live event. A lot of pieces have to be in place for this to come to life, but I’m so excited. I love this show, I grew up on this music … It feels like a great thrill of my career that this opportunity arose, it’s really amazing.” Bareilles also talked about her character to Billboard, discussing why the story is so important. She explained, “The score is undeniable – it’s something I was introduced to as a young girl. Mary Magdalene is a powerful and important historical figure and I love how she’s portrayed in the show. She’s a feminist icon. Getting to sing these songs – which happen to be some of my favorite musical theater songs – is a privilege.”
Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas
Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert is actually told from the perspective of Judas, who is played by Brandon Victor Dixon. One of the things that Dixon said he’s really tried to make a point with is embracing the meaning of the story. Dixon told Billboard that, “I’ve been trying to focus less on the vocals and more on the words. The words expressed in this story are very specific and shape the vocals. I’m excited because it’s rock music. I knew it would have me up on my higher notes, but I’m not intimidated.” Brandon Victor Dixon is a Tony-nominated stage actor, who has appeared in Broadway shows including “The Color Purple”, “Motown: The Musical” and “Hamilton”. According to the New Testament, Dixon’s character Judas was one of the original twelve disciples of Jesus Christ.
Alice Cooper as King Herod
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It’s the legendary rocker Alice Cooper and he is no stranger to Jesus Christ Superstar, as he previously played the same role of King Herod in the 1996 London stage production, according to the New York Post. Though Cooper performed with the cast on a recording, he didn’t actually act on stage. Cooper, who just turned 70, also had a hectic schedule to work around in order to participate in the show. In an interview with WYFF, Cooper revealed that he actually has a religious background, which may surprise some. He stated that, “I grew up in the church. “Went as far away as you could go and then came back. So here I am — a Christian — playing … the guy that is going to condemn Christ. I think that anyone that’s Christian knows the real version of (the story.) I think it does bring Jesus into focus for the the rest of the world that is not believers.” Cooper also told the Daily Beast that it’s not surprising that he play a villain, explaining that, “It’s not like anyone’s ever going to cast me as the guy untying the girl on the railroad track. But I love playing the villain.” And when it comes to his character, he says that, “He’s a bundle of paranoia and ego. I said I’ve got to play him very condescending. He’s got to be very arrogant, very Alan Rickman-like.” The Alice in Chains rocker said he’s excited to be a part of the production.
Ben Daniels as Pontius Pilate
Ben Daniels is playing the role of Pontius Pilate, but many know him from his roles on The Exorcist and Scandal, as reported by IMDb page. What’s interesting about Daniels’ success on The Exorcist is that, according to Digital Spy, he actually almost turned the gig down. Daniels said that he first refused to read the pilot script, explaining that, “I’m a massive horror fan and it’s my favourite horror movie … so I didn’t read it. I thought it was the Holy Grail.” But, after reading the script, “I was like, ‘This is mine, no-one else is going to have this job! I’m going to go in and prove to them that I’m their Marcus’.” When Daniels isn’t acting, he enjoys painting.
Norm Lewis as Caiaphas
Norm Lewis is a stage actor who has appeared in the Broadway show “Miss Saigon,” along with playing the lead role in “The Phantom of the Opera,” which is a work of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Webber has worked closely with this production of Jesus Christ Superstar Live. Prior to getting into acting, Lewis actually worked for the Orlando Sentinel. Like fellow cast member Ben Daniels, Lewis is a Scandal alum, previously playing the role of Senator Edison Davis. In tonight’s live production, Lewis plays the role of Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest, who supposedly organized the plot to kill Jesus Christ.
Other roles in the show include actor Jason Tam playing the role of Pete, Jin Ha as Annas, and Erik Gronwall as Simon Zealotes. Tune in tonight to watch them all in action.