John Legend to Star in NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert on Easter Sunday

Multi-Award-Winning Music Man John Legend Takes on Iconic Leading Role in NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar on April 1

John Legend is always memorable — regardless of the venue.

The masterful 39-year-old singer/songwriter is currently on tour, awaiting the birth of his second child, a son, with his model-wife Chrissy Teigen, and rehearsing for his leading role in NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert.

Before this, the soft-spoken gentlemen has been working on Broadway musicals, award-winning movies, touring, and making sure to pamper his pregnant wife, and dance around the living room with his two-year-old daughter, Luna.

In what will surely be a memorable television musical, Legend is joined by Broadway singer/songwriter Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene, Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas, and rocker Alice Cooper as King Herod.

The rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar is based on the final week of Jesus’ life. The album hit Number One on the Billboard charts and made its way to the stage in 1971. The Broadway musical was nominated for five Tony Awards, and Andrew Lloyd Webber won a Drama Desk Award for Most Promising Composer.

Since then, the musical has become a classic, and a staple of theater and music organizations throughout the world. It has been performed in nearly 20 countries, and translated into 18 languages.

There have been many revivals over the 46 years since its debut, including 2000 and 2013 Broadway versions that each earned Tony nominations for Best Revival of a Musical. The 1973 movie brought the music and the show to entirely new audience, and now NBC’s version will bring the iconic show to families around the nation.

Clearly, Legend has won multiple honors — Academy Award, Golden Globe, Tony Award and 10 Grammys — has a plate this is piled high with an abundance of work and personal riches, and is eager to make sure that there are no spills.

He is often called one of the most talented, and versatile artists in the entertainment world today. He and Common won the 2015 Oscar, Golden Globe and Grammy for their song Glory from the movie Selma about the 1965 civil rights march.

The following is a recent chat with Legend about his iconic role in Webber and Tim Rice’s beloved rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar, the music that inspired him when he was young and loving his very full life.

What are you most looking forward to in doing your performance in the leading role in Jesus Christ Superstar?

 John Legend:  Well, I know the whole thing is going to be fun, but the most challenging, and most exciting thing is singing Gethsemane.  For Jesus’ role, that is the song, and it kind of sums up the emotion of who he is. It’s the most challenging vocally for me in the show. I’m already mentally preparing for it, and getting ready to embody this beautiful song and character.

 I saw the video of you going through those notes, and those are not notes you during your average show.  What’s running through you head? 

 JL:  Not normally.  I do some falsetto during my shows and hit some high notes, but this is one of the more intense, emotionally and vocally, that I’ve done in my career.

 What kind of prep does that involve?  Is there a special way you attack it? 

 JL:  First of all, learning the material, which is different for me because I’m usually singing songs I’ve written.  The biggest difference between doing this and my own shows is just the fact that I have to learn all the songs and so it kind of adds a layer of early challenge to just getting familiar with all the material, musical cues, stage cues, all these other things.  Once you get used to that, and once you get in it, then it’s about just embracing the character and the music itself, and letting it speak through you.  That’s what I’m focused on now.

 What’s it like for you to step out from behind the piano and move around on stage?

 JL:  I’m actually quite used to it. I think because my most famous songs are ballads that people think I’m just the balladeer on the piano.  That was never a worry for me, getting out from behind the piano and performing out on the stage. It’s different when you’re doing someone else’s material, and also doing a show that means so much to people already; they have their own expectations of what they want to see, and what they expect, so I think the challenge for all of us — our director, cast, and the production team — is going to be taking something that people already know and love pretty well, but doing our own fresh version of it and making it special.

 Was this a show that you knew?

 JT:  I was familiar with it but not all of it.  Before prepping for this I had never seen the whole show. I’ve sung some of the songs in the show choir and Andrew Lloyd Webber medleys when I was a kid, but I never actually had seen the entire show from start to finish until I started preparing for it. 

How do you feel about your costume?  It looks pretty great from the rendering that I saw.

 JL: It’s still kind of a work in progress.  These are all renderings, they make me taller and skinnier in those renderings, so I like them.

 You’ve become more involved in theatre in general producing Jitney, writing for SpongeBob, [on Broadway], and the movie musical La La Land. Why is now the right time? What has drawn you to theatre at this moment in your career?

 JL: I never see them as that separate from everything else that I do.  I’m a performer and I’m a musician, regardless of the genre. Even if it’s for theatre, it’s still music and so I’ve always felt like it wasn’t some big leap for me to work with musical theater.  I’ve done it since high school as a performer, and I’ve been writing songs my entire life.  Even though there are some nuances that are different in musical theatre than they are in performing pop music, it’s not such a huge leap that it’s something that I was ever afraid to do.

 You’re obviously also working a lot and touring.  How are you going to be balancing the work for Superstar with your touring?

 JL:  The good thing about my tour is we’ve been doing it for a year now, so there’s not a lot of day time prep, and rehearsing that needs to go into it.  During the day I’m going to listen to the cast album every day, and mentally go through my steps and stage movements.  I’ll be continuously rehearsing and preparing, and then we’ll get back and have seven or eight days of rehearsal, and then go into the show.

 Did you hesitate at all when you got the call for this show?

 JL:  I didn’t hesitate when it came to the role and the idea of playing Jesus.  The only hesitation was can we do it physically?  Can we schedule it?  Can we work around my tour schedule? Can we do all the things we need to do?  So, we got all those logistics and economics ironed out, and we made it work.

What are you most looking forward to in doing your performance in the leading role in Jesus Christ Superstar?

 JT:  Big River, I was a slave in Big River.  I was a Russian in Fiddler on the Roof.  My freshman year in high school I was in the chorus in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.  Then we would do original type things that we, as a group, would come up with.  We did one on the AIDS crisis when we were kids in high school.  And then in church we would do Christmas musicals.  I just grew up singing and performing, and some of it was theatrical, some of it was more strictly music.  So, I’ve been doing that since I was a kid.  This show has just kind of taken me back to that moment, although this time it has a lot bigger budget and production values.

 Have you had anything happen when you’ve been out at one of your shows where someone just got a little too excited that you were right near them?

 JL:  We’re fine with it.  We like touching people and feeling the energy.  That’s why we’re there.

 Do you think your wife of five years, Chrissy [Teigen], will be in the audience?  Will you plant her in the front?

 JL:  I don’t know if she wants to sit there. The crazy thing is that she’s pregnant and a lot of people in the front will have to stand.  So, she definitely won’t be in the front row.  The question is whether there will be a good place for her to sit or whether she’ll be better off watching it at home.  It’s up to her what she wants to do.  She’s obviously welcome.

 What kind of music were you exposed to when you were young?

 JL:  A lot of gospel music, really.  I grew up in a very religious home.  A lot of my family members are ministers, and work in the church in some way or another.  So, the music we listened to was a lot of the music we were singing at church.  My mother was the choir director and her mother, my grandmother, was the church organist.  I grew up around a lot of gospel music. My dad loved gospel but he also loved Motown, so we listened to a lot of that, too.

What kind of music are you sharing with Luna, your adorable two-year-old daughter?

JL:  She hears some Motown, she hears some kind of current pop, soul, and hip-hop.   I also play her a lot of old albums.  We have daddy-daughter dance time in the dining room because I have a record player in there.  I’ll play her old Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye.  I’m trying to indoctrinate her to love good music.

 Any there any surprises you have discovered with fatherhood?

 JL:  Surprises?  Every day I’m learning, and every day she’ll surprise me by how quickly she’s learning.  I think the probably the biggest surprise is how fast she goes from being a little blob to talking and running around the house.  These things happen so quickly; and I love and savor every moment of it. For further information Click Here:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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