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NBC is doubling down on live musicals.
The network has ordered a live production of the Broadway musical Jesus Christ Superstar that will premiere on Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018.
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, who wrote the music and lyrics, respectively, for the 1971 rock opera, will executive produce with Marc Platt, Craig Zadan and Neil Meron.
While Zadan and Meron have exec produced every one of NBC’s live musical productions going back to The Sound of Music Live! in 2013, this marks a first for Webber, Rice and Platt. The latter most recently exec produced Fox’s Grease Live! in January 2016, which nabbed big ratings and won five Emmys, including one for Platt. (Platt also produced the smash movie musical La La Land.)
Webber and Rice, who are both Oscar, Tony and Emmy winners, are also known for their collaborations on the musicals Evita and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Webber’s other best-known musicals include Cats and Phantom of the Opera, while Rice’s credits include The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast.
Universal Television will produce with The Really Useful Group, Marc Platt Productions and Storyline Entertainment.
“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,” NBC entertainment chief Robert Greenblatt said Wednesday in a statement. “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.”
Jesus Christ Superstar was originally conceived as a concept album that hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts and eventually made its way to the stage in 1971. It is based on the final week of Jesus’ life, and features other historical figures in prominent roles including Judas Iscariot, Mary Magdalene, Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas, Annas, Peter, Simon Zealotes and King Herod.
The musical has since been revived multiple times, most recently in 2012, and also produced a film in 1973.
Jesus Christ Superstar Live! will follow Bye Bye Birdie Live!, which is set to bow in December with Jennifer Lopez already attached to star and exec produce. Live musicals have become somewhat of an annual holiday tradition on the network, airing every December since 2013. Other recent productions include Peter Pan Live!, The Wiz Live! and Hairspray Live!
Live broadcasts have proven to be big business for the network ever since Sound of Music! grabbed 18.5 million viewers. Greenblatt, who himself has produced musicals including 9 to 5, has subsequently pushed for more live productions, including a live production of Aaron Sorkin’s A Few Good Men, which has been delayed from a planned April 2017 premiere.
Fresh off the success of Grease Live!, Fox attempted its own religious-themed musical production with The Passion. Premiering on Palm Sunday in 2016, the production was hosted by Tyler Perry and featured a combination of live and taped segments. However, the telecast averaged just a 1.6 rating among adults 18-49 and 6.6 million viewers overall.
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