“It was really just about how you push the story forward. How does the movement help to tell the story?” says choreographer Camille A. Brown about her work on NBC’s live concert production of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which aired on Easter Sunday, April 1. But the rock opera has a long history going back to its first Broadway production in 1971, so she also wanted to bring a “fresh perspective” to it. Watch our exclusive interview with Brown above.
“Superstar” was staged in front of a live audience at the Marcy Avenue Armory in Brooklyn, New York, but Brown also had to consider how it would play to a TV audience. “I’ve never done television before so I was learning as I was going,” she explains. It was also the largest cast she had ever choreographed for, which made it a doubly ambitious undertaking. She was inspired by social dance “where there’s a structure, but there’s also creative identity happening so people look like individuals.” She couldn’t be as “abstract” in her choreography for a TV audience as she would have been if she were only considering the crowd at the venue, but “I love this idea of bodies moving together. I’ve always had a fascination with building,” so creating movement for a large ensemble in a grand space was especially rewarding.
In addition to her work on “Jesus Christ Superstar,” Brown also worked on another revival: the new Broadway production of “Once on This Island,” which was her first time choreographing for a theater in the round: “There’s no back, so you’re performing in a circular way, so people have to see from all different angles.” But just like with “Superstar” she wanted to bring her own unique voice to the show while also staying true to the spirit of the production. “I believe that culture tells you the way to go. This was influenced by Afro-Haitian and Afro-Cuban culture,” so with the help of fellow choreographer Maxine Montilus, who specializes in those cultures of dance, she “was able to pull in those elements as well to create the movement for the show.”
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