The show follows in the footsteps of NBC’s successful run of live musical events, including “Sound of Music Live,” “Peter Pan Live,” “The Wiz Live,” and most recently, “Hairspray Live.”
All of NBC’s former live musicals have aired during December as a holiday special. In contract, “Jesus Christ Superstar Live!” will air on Easter Sunday next year, April 1, 2018.
Based on the 1971 Broadway rock opera, “Jesus Christ Superstar Live!” will be executive produced by original creators Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, who will also provide music and lyrics for NBC’s show. In addition to the duo, musical vets Marc Platt of “La La Land,” plus Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, who have both worked with the network on past musicals, are also on board as executive producers.
No stars have been announced, but casting is underway and NBC is looking to cast authentic recording artists.
“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. “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.”
“Jesus Christ Superstar” is based on the final week of Jesus’ life, and features other historical figures including Judas Iscariot, Mary Magdalene, Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas, Annas, Peter, Simon Zealotes, and King Herod.
The musical first opened at the Mark Hellinger Theatre on Broadway in 1971 and starred Jeff Fenholt as Jesus and Ben Vereen as Judas, and was nominated for five Tony Awards that year. Prior to making its way to the stage, the musical was originally conceived as a concept album that hit no. 1 on the Billboard charts. Since then, the show has been performed in nearly 20 countries and translated into 18 different languages. In the 46 years since its debut, “Jesus Christ Superstar” has been revived many times, including Tony-nominated runs in 2000 and 2012.
“Jesus Christ Superstar” is not the first religious-themed musical to head to the broadcast networks on Easter weekend. Last year, Tyler Perry brought “The Passion” to Fox, which was a partially live modern spin on the story of Jesus Christ’s last hours, though the one-night event garnered mixed reviews and did not bring in a large audience.
For NBC, the network now has a few live shows in deck in addition to “Jesus Christ Superstar” — a live adaptation of Aaron Sorkin’s “A Few Good Men” is expected to debut later this year, along with a live musical version of “Bye Bye Birdie,” starring Jennifer Lopez.
“Jesus Christ Superstar Live!” hails from Universal Television, the Really Useful Group, Marc Platt Productions, and Storyline Entertainment.