Neil Meron Interview: ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ producer
Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice “always conceived [‘Jesus Christ Superstar’] as more raw, stripped-down,” says producer Neil Meron about his approach to the rock opera that he and the rest of his cast and crew staged as an NBC live concert event on Easter Sunday, April 1. So they created “more of an audience-friendly” show where the live spectators at the Marcy Avenue Armory where “Superstar” was performed became part of the production, “and we thought it worked spectacularly well.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Meron above.
“Jesus Christ Superstar” is the latest live musical production Meron has worked on for NBC, following “The Sound of Music” (2014), “Peter Pan” (2015), “The Wiz” (2016) and “Hairspray” (2017). He has “always felt a connection” to “Superstar” for its “inventive and bold” take on the story of Jesus’s last week before his crucifixion. This staging presented its own unique challenges compared to Meron’s other musical efforts, including the first live orchestra he’s worked with and the unpredictable nature of a live audience, but ever since “The Sound of Music” he has learned to “not feel daunted by it all.” So when it’s finally showtime after months of preparation he feels an “air of calmness … At 8pm that night it’s kind of ‘Go with God,’ and with ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ we actually did go with God.”
No matter what happens during the show, the edge-of-your-seat anticipation is part of the appeal of live TV. “That’s the excitement for the audience to tune in,” Meron explains, so he has learned to “embrace anything that could happen.” And he’s venturing into the unknown yet again with his next project, a live TV production of “A Few Good Men,” which will show “whether or not the audience will want to come to see a live play. That really hasn’t been tested yet.”
Then maybe he’ll embark on another show on his “mystical list” of productions he’d like to tackle. But he won’t say what other shows are on that list until they’re official, except to say that the ones he’s interested in are “well known” and “more family-friendly.” The critical acclaim for “Superstar” (81 on MetaCritic) sets a high bar. As he says, “I think the production of ‘Superstar’ that we all did was the ‘Superstar’ that we all wanted to see.”