What's the Buzz: The Jesus Christ Superstar Cast Reveal Their Favorite Songs
Broadway favorites Norm Lewis, Jason Tam, and more remember the first time they had "Heaven on Their Minds."
On April 1, Easter Sunday, NBC will air a live presentation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1971 rock musical Jesus Christ Superstar. The event will star John Legend in the title role with Broadway veterans Brandon Victor Dixon (Hamilton) as Judas and Sara Bareilles (Waitress) as Mary Magdalene.
Since the concert will mark the first time some viewers have seen Lloyd Webber's iconic musical, we asked a few of the cast members about their introduction to the show — and which song has them saying "Hosanna."
Norm Lewis (Caiaphas)
I think it was the album. I remember back in second grade there was a major controversy for me, even in second grade, about the Christian aspect of it — and was it blasphemous or was it not? And so for a long time I was scared to even listen to it because I grew up as a church kid — my grandfather was a preacher, my dad was very high in the church. But once I got over being too scared to listen to it, I listened to how Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote this music and the emotion in the music. You don't even have to act, it acts for you.
It's always been "Heaven on Their Minds", because I kind of saw myself as that character, but after "Gethsemane," actually just watching Ben [Daniels] in there, during the trial, I can't even pick. Being immersed in this, there are actually more now.
Ben Daniels (Pontius Pilate)
Jesus Christ Superstar was the first thing I did at school. I played Judas — really badly. I would have been 14. It's funny, I'm in the middle of writing an email to my drama teacher sort of going, "Ahhh! I took a picture of the rehearsal room!" because it was her favorite thing. She would talk about this musical all the time.
You know what I really love? When all the lepers come out. I used to love that as a kid. I grew up listening to this once that drama teacher gave me the album. There's kind of a growing thing throughout this whole musical, to the crucifixion. But I don't know, there are so many here. Sara singing "I've been dying…" in "Could We Start Again Please?" it's extraordinary. And then the harmony of those huge ensemble parts, it's so beautiful. I can't wait to just stand in the wings and listen to it.
Jason Tam (Peter)
My first experience with the show was hearing the album, and I'm so ashamed to admit that at that time in my life, it didn't speak to me. I think I was probably 8, so it just brushed past me. But it has its claws in me now. And I'm hooked. I'm constantly singing this music. I'm constantly thinking about this story. We all know so much about Jesus. Whether you're religious or not, you know the story of it, but you don't really know the human side of it. We don't think about what this man, and what the men and women around him, were going through emotionally. I think this story tells that in a really brilliant way.
I love "Jesus Christ Superstar," which is the final song. It's so brilliant, because it's so catchy, it's hard not to get into it — it's this weird celebration. Jesus is crawling across the earth, the dirt, the sand, and bleeding, and here are these people dancing. I think the juxtaposition of it is fascinating and it both makes you want to lean in and also lean out at the same time.
Erik Grönwall (Simon Zealotes)
I did Jesus Christ Superstar in the same part in a school production a few years back, so I've seen everything before, but [laughs] this is a little bit bigger.
I like the "Simon Zealotes" song. But I also love "Heaven on Their Minds." I love the riff, I love rock and roll. I love a lot of musical genres, but rock and roll is really my thing, and to be able to do it here and with this cast and with this production, it's a dream come true.