The TV musical has become a favorite for networks in recent years and on Sunday night, NBC put on their live version of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s iconic musical, Jesus Christ Superstar.

But this was not your classic tale, but an updated, fresh take on the stage play for the Instagram generation. The clothing was street style and the setting, an expansive warehouse lit beautifully under the successful direction of David Leveaux and Alex Rudzinski. The live audience added to the drama, with their infectious energy spurring on the committed cast.

john legend Eric Liebowitz NBC

And what a cast it was, with John Legend and the center of the action as Jesus Christ. Legend was the perfect man for the role, clad in a grey overcoat draped over a white tank top and jeans. This was a modern-day man of the people. Legend’s countenance was warm and his vocal chops, piercing and emotive, bringing a freshness and reverence to the popular playlist, culminating in a showstopping performance of “Gethsemane” which on its own, was worth the price of admission.

Sara Bareilles was a quiet force as Mary Magdalene, with her sweet vocals enveloping the stage and Alice Cooper made a perfectly dark King Herod, rounding out the top of the ticket.

One could argue that such a contemporary take on a classic strays too far from the original, but aside from the bold stage crafting and costuming, the show adhered closely to the story. And in the age of social media, NBC’s effort was exactly the kind that could register with a younger generation whom advertisers are always eager to capture. A fun aside was the fact that Legend’s wife, Chrissy Teigen live-tweeted throughout the show.

The show ended powerfully, with Legend suspended mid-air on a large, brilliantly lit cross for the crucifixion scene. It was a solemn and breathtaking moment, executed to perfection. Save a few minor technical glitches, Jesus Christ Superstar, succeeded, anchored by a stellar performance from the show’s star, Legend.


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