Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
Masterful performances impress in modernized rock opera.
Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert
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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert is a live staging of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's classic 1970s rock opera. It features a racially diverse cast, including John Legend as Jesus and Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas, and incorporates female actresses in traditionally male roles, such as among the 12 apostles. Later scenes that show the scourging and crucifixion of Jesus are bloody and emotional, and it's implied (but not shown) that a main character hangs himself. Erotic themes exist in a scene in which people embrace, rub against each other, and lie atop one another, as well as in the scanty costumes of Herod's dancing girls. The story also suggests that Mary Magdalene was in love with Jesus, a highly contentious assertion among some Christians. Because of its mature themes and its focus on human emotion (especially with regard to Jesus), this event is best reserved for teens, but viewers who do tune in will be treated to masterful performances by an accomplished cast.
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What's the Story?
JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR LIVE IN CONCERT casts John Legend in the titular role of this classic rock opera that chronicles Jesus' last week of life. At its start, Jesus (Legend) is celebrated by throngs of fans, leading the apostle Judas (Brandon Victor Dixon) to question whether his teacher's new superstar status threatens his works and message of peace. Meanwhile, Mary Magdalene (Sara Bareilles) tries to comfort Jesus and urge him to care for his own needs as well as those of his believers. As Jesus prepares for his last meal with his apostles, Judas plots with the high priest Caiaphas (Norm Lewis) to have Jesus arrested, setting in motion his trial, scourging, and ultimately his crucifixion, with fateful roles played by King Herod (Alice Cooper) and Pontius Pilate (Ben Daniels).
Is It Any Good?
Remarkable performances by all of the major players and a modern revamping of the visuals make this live airing of a classic musical a total success. Legend is spectacular as Jesus Christ, impassioned and in complete control of the vocal challenges posed by the story's soundtrack. He's matched by similarly memorable work by the exceptionally talented Dixon and Bareilles, who don't seem motivated to outshine the title character but at times do so anyway. Even the smaller of the main performances are noteworthy, especially the commanding presence of Lewis as the imposing figure Caiaphas, who encourages Judas's betrayal, and Cooper's flashy, scene-stealing Herod.
Historically controversial but beloved by fans, Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar takes some liberty with the biblical account of Jesus' relationships with disciples and his last several days, and that may bother some viewers. It's also a choice to match this ancient story with this performance's decidedly modern slant, with Jesus in tennis shoes and the throngs of followers (and later accusers) in torn jeans and T-shirts. But the very aspects that set apart this telling -- Judas' sympathetic torment, Mary Magdalene's deep love for Jesus, and, most of all, Jesus' humanity -- combine to make this an engrossing watch.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about how celebrity status is assigned. Do you agree with the story's assertion that Jesus was the first superstar? Is it healthy to admire celebrities like we do?
Does Jesus Christ Superstar change your impression of any of the characters in the story of Jesus? What is the purpose of making Judas a sympathetic figure? What, if any, redeeming qualities does he have in this telling?
How effectively does this live performance use minimal costumes and staging to set the scene for the story? Did you find it easy to follow the plot with music alone and all-sung dialogue?
- In theaters: April 1, 2018
- On DVD or streaming: June 14, 2018
- Cast: John Legend, Sara Bareilles, Brandon Victor Dixon
- Directors: David Leveaux, Alex Rudzinski
- Studio: NBC Studios
- Genre: Musical
- Topics: Music and Sing-Along
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: July 22, 2022
Our Editors Recommend
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Stage musical successfully brought to the screen.
The Passion of the Christ
Controversial film is extremely violent and powerful.
The Ten Commandments
Stirring, even if it's as much showbiz as Bible.
For kids who love musicals
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