John Legend has won an Oscar, a Tony and 10 Grammy Awards.
But his greatest challenge awaits him Sunday night at the Marcy Avenue Armory in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
He’s playing Jesus.
Legend has the title role in NBC’s staging of “Jesus Christ Superstar” (8 p.m.), one of the live productions that have become one of NBC’s trademarks.
“I’ve been in musicals when I was in high school but never as big of a role. I was excited for the challenge,” says Legend, 39. He’s sitting in the basement of a church on Columbus Avenue, having just rehearsed “Gethsemane,” the most demanding number in the rock opera by Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice, which debuted as a concept album in 1970 before moving to Broadway a year later.
“This is where Jesus realizes he’s headed toward his crucifixion. It ends on a very high note for most singers,” says musical director Nigel Wright, who has worked with Lloyd Webber on musicals ranging from “Evita” to “Sunset Boulevard.” “This Jesus has to fall apart.”
Singing the score has stretched Legend’s range beyond the music he usually performs. “I think this is the biggest range of notes I’ll do. It’s a powerful rock opera,” he says. “Big moments, big notes.”