'Jesus Christ Superstar Live' Tops Easter Sunday in Early Numbers

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NBC's Easter showing of "Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert" attracted 9.6 million total viewers according to Nielsen overnight ratings released on Monday. It topped ABC American Idol head-to-head from 8-10 PM (6.1 vs. 4.5) and tied CBS' 60 Minutes as the top program of the night in households.

The NBC production, the first for the network in their musical theater series performed before a live audience, used a mix of older and modern elements, full orchestra, chorus and troop of dancers.

R&B star John Legend played Jesus Christ, and proved that his powerful voice translates well to a musical production, with the New York Daily News exclaiming he displayed a "God-given voice that could heal lepers". NBC fared much better in 2013 and 2015 - with The Sound of Music and The Wiz, respectively.

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Airing a special on an actual holiday can be tricky business.

If the preliminary ratings for "Superstar" were well below NBC's previous results, it's worth noting that the number of people watching TV in early April is generally 12 to 15 percent lower than the viewing rate for early December. Another spin on Jesus Christ's last days, one that relied on eclectic pop tunes rather than a familiar songbook, failed to drum up much heat.

Looking ahead, NBC's next live musical is not now dated.

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