VULTURE- NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Set a New Standard for Live Musicals

NBC’s live production of Jesus Christ Superstar was pitched to audiences as a “Live in Concert” version, which led some to expect a straightforward performance of the songs. It turned out to be an inventively staged production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s rock-and-roll gospel, so passionately imagined that it set a new standard for this type of event.

The “Live in Concert” aspect seemed to have more to do with the venue at the Marcy Avenue Armory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn — an enormous space filled with sets, lighting, and design accents that owed as much to Mad Max, The Matrix, and Dune as to any old-fashioned Biblical spectacular, as well as costumes by Hamilton’s Paul Tazewell, and simple, effective choreography by Camille A.
Brown. The audience was arranged in steeply raked bleachers, complete with a mosh pit at the base where cast members could offer handshakes and high-fives as if at a nightclub or arena show. Spectators were apparently encouraged to react spontaneously and loudly, as if they were watching Beyoncé play the Staples Center — one of many touches that lent the broadcast a sense of immediacy. It came at the expense of sound mix problems that improved throughout the night, but were never entirely overcome.

Jordan Lugenbeel