This trend of major networks producing large-scale, fun-for-the-whole family musicals is a good one. The world needs more musicals, and, in the age of streaming, it especially needs more opportunities for people to sit down, all at the same time, and watch together. Jesus Christ Superstar is the latest Broadway show given such treatment by NBC, and boy, are musical theater geeks like me excited to watch it. But how do you stream Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert?
The timing of the production is especially smart, because it falls on Sunday, April 1, Easter Sunday, as well as the third night of Passover. If you have television, you’re in luck — just pop on the NBC affiliate in your area, and you’re all set to see John Legend wear a hoodie and sing songs as the Messiah. If you don’t have cable, it’s a little trickier — you can watch NBC’s live stream on the network’s website, but you need a cable login to do it. Just borrow one from a friend or parent! They won’t mind! Viewers who subscribe to streaming services like Hulu Live, YouTube Live, and Sling and have NBC as a part of their subscription should also have no trouble watching the Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice rock opera.
If you’re not up to speed, it stars John Legend as Jesus; Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas Iscariot; Jason Tam as Peter; Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene; and Alice Cooper as King Herod; and it’s all being broadcast live from the Marcy Armory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
NBC started this trend of live musicals when it produced The Sound Of Music Live! in 2013 with Carrie Underwood, and since then, the network has given us 2014’s Peter Pan Live! and The Wiz Live! in 2015. Plans were announced for Bye Bye Birdie, also, but Jennifer Lopez’s very, very busy schedule has pushed it back in 2019. Jenny from the block can’t commit to Broadway right now. So why Jesus Christ Superstar? At a PaleyLive panel, NBC Chair Bob Greenblatt explained the network’s choice:
“I grew up listening to this music and I actually worked on a production of it when I was in high school. It's always just been part of the musical theater world, and the rock music world. It was sort of a rock opera before it was a theater production. We just thought, we've been doing these Christmas musicals primarily and we thought, what about looking at another time of the year? And someone got the idea to do Jesus Christ Superstar on Easter, which I just think, I don't know how you get better than that, scheduling-wise.”
It's true — the timing is particularly great. This is huge undertaking for the cast, but according to Billboard, treating it like a concert has made it a little more manageable. “We’re treating it like any other live performance, so it’s about connecting with the people you share the stage with and the audience,” Bareilles said. “I’m glad they’ve made the decision to have a live audience, so we can feel the immediacy of people interacting with the material.”
Dixon, who recently starred in Hamilton, said that he’s had to change a bit since he’s so used to Broadway. “Because of the cameras, your blocking, where you look, the things you do … are more specific than they are in the theater. I’m notorious for doing different things all the time!” he said. “So that’s the one thing I’ve been conscious of — letting the material flow within me but making sure that my physicality remains fixed.”
At this point, the cast is ready, the band is warming up, and viewers — streaming or not — should get ready for the musical event of the season.