I’ve always been a musical theater fan. I love going to see a good show whether it’s a hit on Broadway or the West End or if it’s a local school’s performance of a classic like Oklahoma. One of my favorite things to do is to explore new, experimental independent shows as well as the classics. I love it all! So of course I want to see John Legend in Jesus Christ Superstar Live.
And I love sharing my love for musical theater with others. It’s so much fun experiencing live theater with others. And I’d be lying if I said that I don’t have my own ‘singing in the shower’ repertoire. I may sound like a screeching cat, but no one else has to know, right?
When NBC began doing their live musical series, I was excited. It’s a great way to expose more people to musical theatre, and it helps me to share my love for it. And the challenge of doing a big production live is astounding. Whether I feel like a production works or not, I still admire the chutzpah it takes to take on a huge show in front of millions, live.
Jesus Christ Superstar Live
So when I heard that NBC’s next live musical will be Jesus Christ Superstar, I was thrilled. It’s always been a favorite. I love that it really captures so many feelings behind the greatest story ever told. And for it to air on Easter Sunday? Even better! What a great way to spend the holiday with your family. Celebrate the holiday, eat some good food, and then settle in for the perfect antidote to an Easter food coma – a rock opera.
And rock, it will. Especially with John Legend in the title role. I have to admit, I swoon a bit when I hear him sing. Legend’s music appeals to so many people, and I feel like he’s a terrific choice to introduce Jesus Christ Superstar to a new generation.
And many of the die-hard musical theater crowd are excited to see it too, particularly with the casting. Fellow The Awesome Muse writer Michelle Burstion-Young says the casting with John Legend as Jesus, Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas, and Alice Cooper as King Herod “is inspired.” And I agree.
John Legend stars as Jesus
I don’t think I’m the only one excited about this. It seems like John Legend is too. He took the time to answer some questions about his upcoming performance in Jesus Christ Superstar Live.
I was able to take part in a phone interview with Mr. Legend, and his enthusiasm for the show was contagious. Let’s see what he had to say.
The role of a lifetime
QUESTION: Why did you choose to take on the role of Jesus?
JOHN LEGEND: Just so you know, I’ve never starred in a professional musical before. [Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s] Jesus Christ Superstar is such an iconic production.
I grew up in a family of preachers and choir directors. And Jesus Christ has always been an important part of my life. So I grew up on these stories. So the idea of being able to play him was very important to me.
QUESTION: During rehearsal, what has excited you the most? What are you most excited for the audience to see?
JOHN LEGEND: The cast is fantastic. Sara Bareilles is Mary Magdalene. Brandon Victor Dixon from Hamilton is Judas.
And Jesus Christ Superstar takes stories that we’ve grown up learning from the Bible, like the story of the garden of Gethsemane. The show imagines the emotions the people have behind the stories. It imagines the emotional life of the people we read about in the stories.
Jesus was a revolutionary
QUESTION: Being from a relatively small town, Springfield, OH, how does it feel to go from a small town guy to superstar performer playing the role of Jesus?
JOHN LEGEND: For me to play Jesus represents progress in a certain way. He [Jesus] looked a lot more like me than the actors who have played him in the past. The cast is multicultural, and it looks a lot like how America looks. This is something we haven’t seen before.
It starts to shift the way one of the most iconic figures in all of history is perceived. It is important to remember that portrayals of deities are created by those in power. It’s part of their system of white supremacy. The challenge for me to play Him is huge.
QUESTION: When you studied Jesus to play the role, were you changed in any way?
JOHN LEGEND: I didn’t approach it any differently. That said, I’ve been learning the gospels my entire life.
My study was about the character as it is written in the show. Understanding the character in the show and then comparing that with my own study of the gospels is how I approached the character.
The music of Jesus Christ Superstar
QUESTION: Let’s talk about the music…
JOHN LEGEND: The music of the show is a rock opera with a mix of rock and gospel and pop melodies. It’s a mix of genres and represents a broad spectrum of popular music.
But it has the energy of love. When we rehearse, we infuse our performances with love. Like in the musical’s story, even though Judas betrayed Jesus, he [Judas] thought he was doing the right thing, so we focus on love.
QUESTION: Do you think the audience will be moved by the music?
JOHN LEGEND: I think so. And there are lots of tambourine shaking moments.
QUESTION: We are charging through some disturbing times. Do you see compassion woven into the fabric of the show?
JOHN LEGEND: Yes, but it’s important to remember that Jesus was a revolutionary in a lot of ways. He was someone who was for the people, not the establishment. Jesus Christ wasn’t part of the establishment. He was challenging the status quo.
Tune in to NBC on April 1
Don’t miss John Legend as Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar Live on NBC on Easter Sunday.
You can see Jesus Christ Superstar Live on NBC on Easter Sunday (April 1, 2018) at 8:00 pm Eastern time. Be sure to tune in and use #JesusChristSuperstar to let us know you’re watching.
Learn more about the show from the cast in a group interview at Paley Fest.
And if you’re a fan of revisiting the original Broadway soundtrack, you can still find it on Amazon.
Special thanks to John Legend for making time to give our audience some insights into the upcoming show, Jesus Christ Superstar Live. Thank you also to Joshua DuBois of Values Partnerships for inviting me to take part in this phone interview.
Update: Now that you had a chance to see John Legend in Jesus Christ Superstar Live! you can enjoy the concert all over again!
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