“Just woke up to Andrew Lloyd Webber tweeting about me,” John Legend wrote early Tuesday morning. “It’s a good day.”
That’s because the Grammy and Oscar-winning singer has been cast in the lead role of NBC’s live production of Webber’s rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, which recounts the final week of the Christian savior’s life.
The musical, which has no spoken dialogue, began as a concept album in 1970, which hit No. 1 on the Billboard chart before heading to Broadway the following year, where it was nominated for five Tonys.
“We’re all overjoyed to have world-class musical artist and producer John Legend starring as Jesus,” NBC entertainment chairman Bob Greenblatt said in a statement. “This score demands a singer with an amazing range and an actor with great depth, and there isn’t anyone better to bring this story to a new audience.”
Greenblatt added that “(Legend’s) casting is also groundbreaking, as the traditional image of Christ will be seen in a new way.”
For his part, Legend said, “I’m thrilled to join the cast of this production of Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert. It’s such a powerful, meaningful musical and I’m humbled to be part of this performance. We’ve already formed an incredible team, and, as we finish casting, I’m certain we will put together some of the greatest talents around to do this work justice.”
Rock Hall of Famer Alice Cooper has already been cast as King Herod, the ruler of Galilee. The character’s big number is King Herod’s Song (Try It and See).
NBC has yet to announce who will play other key roles, including Judas Iscariot (who sings Damned for All Time/Blood Money) and Mary Magdalene (who performs Everything’s Alright and I Don’t Know How to Love Him).
Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert! will air April 1 (Easter Sunday) live from the Marcy Armory in Brooklyn, with a studio audience. Legend will also executive produce, along with composer Webber and lyricist Tim Rice. The team also includes Marc Platt (La La Land) and Craig Zadan and Neil Meron, the producers who oversaw Legend and Common’s performance of best-original-song winner Glory at the Oscars ceremony in 2015.