Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert has done what no other live musical of late has done, surprising at it may be: they're using live musicians. Not only that, but they're on stage and the Jesus Christ Superstar live band is kind of everything. They're on stage, killing it, and making this the best NBC live musical ever right off the bat.
The band, which stealthily grew over time, comprises of 32 musicians — which includes a rock band, a string quartet, an orchestra and some regular Broadway pit players, according to NBC. It's the first time that live musicians have been utilized for one of these televised events. The closest is FOX's 2016 broadcast of Grease, which had a small band on stage during a school dance scene. (Plus DNCE.) This, however, is a totally different feel. Musical theatre nerds might be reminded of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 the way these musicians are integrating themselves with the audience both at home and in the crowd. Not only is it immersive, it adds to the rock concert "feel" of this adaptation and has totally gotten everyone on board.
Live tweeting during live musicals may have a reputation for snark and disapproval, but not this time. Everyone is living for the Jesus Christ Superstar band. Check it out.
NBC has clearly learned from every live musical since The Sound of Music and worked to make this one the best.
They're doing the most and the best.
From a television logistic perspective it makes sense that you wouldn't always want to use live musicians. However, the talent and skill on display in Jesus Christ Superstar is making it hard to deny. Plus, it helps the whole thing "breathe" as a piece of art more naturally.
The musicians were seen mostly in the opening/overture — but it made an instant impression.
It wouldn't be a live musical without a bit of constructive criticism.
That said, take it from our Lord and savior Aaron Tveit — irony absolutely intended — he knows what's up!
Producing live musicals is a learning process, for sure.
Oh dip — is that what that means? Yeesh.
Another Broadway deity, Rudetsky, notes that this is not only unprecedented for television — live orchestras have been shrinking on Broadway too.
There are a few tweets complaining that the instruments are too loud for the audience at home — again, it's a learning curve. The problem seemed to have been rectified throughout the show. That's the beauty of live TV; even if a tiny crisis pops up, there are folks on hand to solve it.
Wondering who those amazing musicians roaming the stage or providing the rockin' score accompaniment were? According to the credits, the orchestra included these individuals: Alden Banta, Jarvis Benson, Ravi Best, Andrew Borkowski, Sara Cyrus, Ian Donald, Rachel Drehmann, Bruce Dukov, Gina Dyches, Shawn Edmonds, Aaron Heck, Jason Jackson, Patrice Jackson-Tilghman, Ally Jenkins, Juliette Jones, Dillon Kondor, Christiana Liberis, Edwin Livingston, Todd Low, Stephanie Matthews, Jessie Montgomery, Rolando Matthias-Matos, Tom Murray, Jannina Norpoth, Yumi Oshima, Ina Paris, Tim Quick, Matt Rohde, Adele Stein, Jamey Tate, Brian Taylor, and Alex Weill.
During the overture and again in the credits sequence, the audience could see where the rest of the musicians were hidden on set.
Live musicians and a live audience truly are the magic formula that takes a television musical to the next level. It makes a huge difference to the energy on stage and the acting reflects that. Hopefully the live musicals to come will continue this tradition. Who knows, maybe the "big names" associated with these kinds of events won't always be the ones doing the singing and dancing. Musical theatre is a collaborative art, and the enthusiasm for the Jesus Christ Superstar band proves how awesome those behind, or under, or to the sides of the scenes can be.