Many know Sara Bareilles from her first break out hit “Love Song” or from the Broadway show Waitress, where she played the lead role of Jenna. Now, Bareilles is playing the role of Mary Magdalene in NBC’s television production of Jesus Christ Superstar Live. When dishing on her biblical character to the NY Times, Bareilles told the NY Times, “She’s actually a very powerful figure, and she is really motivated by her love for Jesus and his message. Historically, she was definitely a disciple and a believer and a champion of his message. She’s got laser focus on her support of Jesus, in my interpretation, and that’s how I’m coming to it, with a pure sense of the ultimate kind of love for someone.” The legendary Andrew Lloyd Webber is the composer for Jesus Christ Superstar and Bareilles said that, as a child, she was a huge fan of Webber’s musicals.
What’s most interesting about Mary Magdalene is that Bareilles says everything people know about her is “wrong.” Bareilles said to The Daily Beast, “What I’ve learned about her in my little bit of research is that pretty much everything we know about Mary Magdalene is incorrect. Not to just call out the patriarchy again, but … This is a very powerful woman who basically bankrolled Jesus’ campaign.” Bareilles stated that she feels it’s a great honor to tell Magdalene’s story.
When Bareilles was a kid, she rented the original film, Jesus Christ Superstar and she recalled to the NY Times that, “I remember just being really emotional about the music. What was so avant-garde and so revolutionary about Tim and Andrew’s approach was that they really emphasized the humanity of these figures that have become so mythologized for us over the years. For someone who grew up in the church, as intimate as your relationship to Jesus can be, it’s really interesting and nuanced to look at him as a human and to look at Mary as a human and Judas as a human.” Bareilles refers to Magdalene as “a disciple, a believer, a friend, a confidant, a champion.”
Though Bareilles is used to performing live in front of an audience, preparing for this kind of 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 the music in the production to Billboard, discussing why the songs are so important. She explained, “The score is undeniable – it’s something I was introduced to as a young girl … Getting to sing these songs – which happen to be some of my favorite musical theater songs – is a privilege.”
Alongside Bareilles, John Legend is playing the role of Jesus Christ and Brandon Victor Dixon is playing Judas. Jesus Christ Superstar Live airs tonight on the NBC network at 8 p.m. ET/PT and 7 p.m. CT.