“Jesus Christ Superstar” will air as a live musical on NBC on Easter Sunday or sometime next April, the network announced.
“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,” said Robert Greenblatt, chairman of NBC Entertainment in a statement. “Casting has just begun, but we want to fill out this classic show with as many recording artists as possible to give proper voice to what is the original rock opera score.”
NBC’s next live musical “Bye Bye Birdie” will air this fall.
“Jesus Christ Superstar” was a Broadway sensation when it opened Oct. 12, 1971, at the old Mark Hellinger Theatre (Times Square Church in recent years). Jeff Fenholt originated the role of Jesus; he later went on to join Black Sabbath (although whether he actually joined or not is a matter of long-standing debate among Sabbath fans). The show ran for 711 performances, sold millions of records, changed the culture and — by his own account — appalled Webber who called the Hellinger production a “vulgar travesty” in an interview with the British newspaper The Telegraph in 2013.
Possibly for that reason, don’t expect a facsimile on NBC. The network pointedly noted that “Andrew Lloyd Webber, Tim Rice, Marc Platt, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron” will produce. Platt is a major producer on both coasts — although at the moment may be best known as father of Ben Platt, star of “Dear Evan Hansen,” on Broadway. Platt himself is a superstar, and likely Tony winner. Could he even be cast for this one-night-only extravaganza? Who knows? (NBC says cast announcements will be forthcoming.)
Meanwhile, the network provided this background information about “Jesus Christ Superstar”:
The show was originally conceived as a concept album that hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts, and eventually made its way to the stage in 1971. It is based on the final week of Jesus’ life. Other historical figures that play prominent roles in the production include Judas Iscariot, Mary Magdalene, Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas, Annas, Peter, Simon Zealotes and King Herod.
The musical opened at the Hellinger and starred Fenholt as Jesus and Ben Vereen as Judas. It was nominated for five Tony Awards, including one for Vereen. Lloyd Webber won a Drama Desk Award for most promising composer.
Since then, the musical has been considered a classic and has become a staple of theater and music organizations throughout the world. It has been performed in nearly 20 countries and translated into 18 different languages. There have been many revivals of “Jesus Christ Superstar” over the 46 years since its debut, including 2000 and 2012 Broadway versions that each earned a Tony nomination for best revival of a musical. The 1973 film, was directed by Norman Jewison and starred Ted Neeley.
Webber and Rice are icons of musical theater, with hits spanning nearly five decades. Their three major works together include “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Evita” (1976) and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” (1968).