Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert (2018)

jesus christ superstar live in concert poster john legend 2018
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Solid stage performance

Doesn't do much to distinguish itself from traditional performances which isn't necessarily a bad thing

Movie Info

Movie Name:   Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert

Studio:   Universal Television

Genre(s):   Musical

Release Date(s):   April 1, 2018

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated

jesus christ superstar live in concert john legend mary magdalene sara bareilles

Don’t worry Jesus…I’m sure it will all turn out ok

Jesus (John Legend) has become a marked man.  As he tries to spread the word of the Lord, his own apostle Judas (Brandon Victor Dixon) questions if Jesus truly believes the words he is speaking and if it is detracting from their goals to free their country from the Romans.  Jesus finds himself pulled in all directions, and the involvement of Mary Magdalene (Sara Bareilles) in the message is the last straw for Judas…something must be done!

Directed by David Leveaux and Alex Rudzinski, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert was a musical event special airing live on NBC on Easter Sunday 2018.  The special adapts the 1970 Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice rock opera presenting the events leading up to the Crucifixion.

I’m more familiar with Jesus Christ Superstar than many of the other “live” performance musicals.  I’ve seen the movie multiple times and I’ve seen the musical performed on stage…and I have some ways to compare the live version.  By choosing to go the traditional route in the performance, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert is one of the better live musicals, but it also offers little new in the presentation.

jesus christ superstar live in concert lepers john legend

You’re tearing me apart!!! (Tommy Wisseau screaming)

The live version is a rather straight interpretation of the original musical.  Many of the live versions try to do something different and “modernize” the story for the screen.  Here, Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s basic retelling of the Gospels is intact and it feels closer to a recording of an actual stage performance than a manufactured TV performance.

The cast is rather strong.  John Legend is touted as the star, but I’ve always felt that the songs of Jesus (in general) pale in comparison to Judas and Mary (the solo exception perhaps is “Gethsemane (I Only Want to Say)”).  He does play well off of the other actors, but Jesus Christ Superstar often becomes about the supporting cast.  As a result, Brandon Victor Dixon and Sara Bareilles have a tough job to carry the performance in the beginning and succeed.  It was also rather inspired casting to get Alice Cooper as King Herod (performing a song I was never a fan of, but being Alice Cooper, he works the crowd).  Ben Daniels also is commendable as Pontius Pilate and makes the most of his big number.

jesus christ superstar live in concert judas brandon victor dixon

A tortured character who is destined to do what he does?

The 1973 movie benefited from live sets but stuck to the minimalistic nature of the stage musical.  This performance feels very much like the performance I saw played out (it was a round stage in that case), but in general it is very basic with scaffolding and tables so the live performance’s decision to continue that was smart in a visual sense (and characters like Herod and Jesus could appeal to the crowd).

Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert was a better entry in the live musicals, but it also just felt like an actual broadcast of a live musical (something that many of the other entries weren’t really trying to do).  The use of music performers mattered less in this version since the acting was stage acting…something that they are more familiar with and everyone on stage was stage acting verses an uncomfortable mix of stage and screen acting which has plagued other live versions.  With a shorter runtime and a solid presentation, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert succeeded where many stumbled.

Related Links:

Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)

The Sound of Music Live! (2013)

Peter Pan Live! (2014)

The Wiz Live! (2015)

Grease Live! (2016)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show:  Let’s Do the Timewarp Again (2016)

Hairspray Live! (2016)

A Christmas Story Live! (2017)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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