Alex Rudzinski Interview: ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ director
Director Alex Rudzinski admits that live television is a high risk, high reward business where there are “so many things that could go wrong,” and that was no different on “Jesus Christ Superstar,” which he staged as a live concert event on NBC this past Easter Sunday, April 1. But with these productions you’ve got to go for broke. “It’s important sometimes that you reach for the stars and you go full-out and you tread a little bit dangerously because I think the viewers appreciate that,” he says. “If you create something that’s insanely dynamic … then it’s a great experience for the viewer.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Rudzinski above.
Rudzinski won Emmys for Best Special Class Program and Best Variety Special Directing in 2016 for another live TV production of a popular musical: “Grease” on FOX. He also directed “Hairspray Live” and “A Christmas Story Live,” and though all these live musicals are “a logistical planning nightmare,” they’re also “the most fun, enjoyable projects to work on, without doubt” in part because of their unpredictability. A big part of live TV’s appeal is the potential for surprises, the edge-of-your-seat tension of the unanticipated. For the audience “you want there to be this frisson of, what could happen next.”
“Jesus Christ Superstar” was easier to put on in one way: it was staged in a single location, unlike “Grease” where he had to “get from one end of Warner Bros. to the other end of Warner Bros. in 25 seconds on golf carts with the entire production team.” But easy is relative. A lot still could have gone wrong during “Superstar,” especially during the last scene that depicts Christ’s crucifixion as the large set opens up in the shape of a cross. “We only nailed it on the night,” Rudzinski reveals, but “we pulled off something that was very epic … I felt that we landed something that had never been done before on live television, and it was a pretty stunning, emotive moment.”