What’s the buzz? Tell me what’s a-happening. Well, NBC has set its next live musical event — this time for Easter. It’s Jesus Christ Superstar, the classic 1971 rock opera from Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, who will executive produce alongside Marc Platt and the Peacock’s live-musical veterans Craig Zadan and Neil Meron. It will air April 1, 2018.
First envisioned as a concept album based on Jesus’ life, the show features such memorable songs as “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” — a top 30 pop hit for 19-year-old Yvonne Elliman, and a breakthrough 1971 cover by Helen Reddy — “Hosanna” and “What’s the Buzz?”/”Strange Thing Mystifying.” It also features such biblical figures as Judas Iscariot, Mary Magdalene, Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas, Annas, Peter, Simon Zealotes and King Herod.
The original Broadway show starring Jeff Fenholt as Jesus of Nazareth opened in October 1971 and ran to July 1973, covering more than 700 performances. Elliman played Mary Magdelene — she would reprise the role in the 1973 movie — and Ben Vereen was Judas. It scored five Tony noms including Original Score but went home empty-handed. Ted Neeley played Jesus in Norman Jewison’s 1973 film adaptation.
“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.”
NBC. of course, has aired live musicals since The Sound of Music Live! starring Carrie Underwood drew big ratings in December 2013. It was followed by lesser-viewed productions of Peter Pan Live! in 2014 and The Wiz Live! in 2015.
Fox aired The Passion, a live event from Tyler Perry, on Easter Sunday last year.