In the basement of The Church of St. Paul the Apostle in Manhattan, a long, wide room where The Rockettes often practice their kicklines and such, rehearsals are taking place for Sunday’s broadcast of Jesus Christ Superstar Live (8/7c), the next entry in NBC’s list of live musical events.
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Folding tables littered with laptops and paper line one side of the floor; producer Neil Meron sits at one of them while about 25 members of the company assemble to run through an Act II number. Over on the right, a musician in the pit noodles around on an electric bass. If the scene sounds like something out of an episode of Smash… that’s because it’s kinda like something out of an episode of Smash.
“There’s something timeless and exciting about Superstar, period,” Platt says at a press event weeks earlier. “There’s no bad language in it, and everything is metaphorically, theatrically done, and it’s a concert. Part of its virtue, particularly on Easter Sunday… [is] that it is a family event.
Platt and Meron’s cast features international R&B artist John Legend as Jesus, singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene, Brandon Victor Dixon (Power, Broadway’s Hamilton) as Judas and goth rocker Alice Cooper as King Herod.
The ensemble also includes Ben Daniels (The Exorcist), Norm Lewis (Scandal) and Jason Tam (One Life to Live) — as the rehearsal progresses, Daniels, Lewis and Jin Ha (Broadway’s M. Butterfly) gather to work out an Act II number called “Trial Before Pilate.” They launch into the scene, with Daniels singing “And so the king/Is once again my guest,” but they don’t get far before director David Leveaux stops the action to smooth out a kink. While Leveaux confers with other members of the behind-the-scenes staff, Tam uses the time to go over a dance combination, marking the moves off to the side of the room. Daniels goofs around by shimmying while the musicians run through a few tricky bars. And while they’re doing that, we’ll use this time to give you a few key Superstar details in advance of Sunday’s show:
ORIGINAL FLAVOR| Don’t expect any new interpretations or wacky arrangements in Jesus Christ Superstar Live, which uses the original concept album as its, well, Bible. “We’re doing it as Andrew and Tim wrote it,” Meron says; the only change will be the addition of “Can We Start Again Please?,” a song from the 1973 film adaptation. “David is really rooted in the storytelling. We acknowledge that it’s a concept album, so he’s really rooted in everything we can communicate about the relationship between Jesus and Judas and Mary and the disciples,” Dixon tells TVLine.