John Legend took TV viewers to church as the titular character in NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, but they weren’t the only people basking in the show’s glory — a studio audience got to watch the show firsthand as it was being filmed in Brooklyn, New York on Easter Sunday.
EW was in the crowd during the telecast, which also featured stellar performances from Sara Bareilles and Brandon Victor Dixon. Here’s some of what happened behind-the-scenes.
Audiences were bused to the venue from a separate location. The telecast was staged at the Marcy Armory in Williamsburg, but attendees were told to meet at a different location in Brooklyn, where they enjoyed drinks and snacks before being loaded onto coach buses and taken to the main event. Sort of like being on a theater-camp field trip, but fancier.
Marc Platt, hype man. Platt — whose producing credits include Broadway’s Wicked and Hollywood’s La La Land (and yep, he’s Ben Platt’s dad) — was one of the producers of Jesus Christ Superstar Live, and came out to talk to the audience before the show began. He jokingly welcomed us to the show’s opening and closing night, before encouraging everyone to clap, dance, cheer, and enjoy themselves. “You are part of the experience tonight,” he said.
Social media use was encouraged. Don’t yell at me (or Chrissy Teigen) for tweeting during the show. Ahead of arriving for JCS Live, audience members were told to feel free to take photos/videos and share them on their platforms of choice.
Audience choreography 101. A “mosh pit” of fans at the front of the crowd got a bit of a dance tutorial before the telecast kicked off. You could see them being talked through waving their hands in the air, which they then did during the musical number “Hosanna.”
There were sound issues inside the room, too. Some people complained about the broadcast’s sound mix on Twitter, but it wasn’t ideal inside the event space, either. At times, it was hard to hear the heavenly vocals coming from the cast over the sounds of the band.
Glitter and sand cleanup crews earned their paychecks. During the (frequent) commercial breaks, crewmembers came onto the stage to sweep scattered glitter off the floor and maintain the sand on different parts of the stage. One person carried what looked like a mist machine filled with water, used to help keep the sand in place.
There were three standing ovations. The in-house crowd was first brought to its feet courtesy of John Legend’s powerhouse rendition of “Gethsemane” (a woman near me in the crowd asked, “Can he rewind and do that song again?”) and then again when Alice Cooper looked to be having a ball singing “King Herod’s Song.” The last one came during the show’s signature number, “Superstar” (led by Dixon in a seriously spangled outfit) that got a standing ovation before the song was even finished.
Hugs came before the curtain call. There was a brief commercial break between the finale and the curtain call, but the cast didn’t wait until cameras were rolling again to celebrate a job well done. Bareilles was among those spotted embracing fellow cast members before they went back on the air to take their bows.