“‘Well, you’ve got trouble my friends,’” Brandon Victor Dixon responds when asked about the high school role that most impacted him—the lyrics from The Music Man answer enough.
Dixon, who will play Judas in the forthcoming NBC broadcast of Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert, adds, “I could still recite that thing to this day.” Just as the infamous recitation from his eighth-grade days as Harold Hill sticks with the now two-time Tony nominee, high school productions also led his Superstar co-stars to lives of music and theatre.
Bareilles, who made her Broadway performing debut as Jenna in Waitress—for which she wrote the score—grew up in a theatre-loving home. “My mom and my sisters were all very involved in community theatre, and so I would go as a little girl, and I’m much younger, nine years younger than my oldest sister and six years younger than my middle sister,” says Bareilles. “I would go and see their productions and just couldn’t wait to get onstage. I was kind of a misfit little kid and bullied at school, so finding the theatrical community was a great home for me very early on. It’s where I felt like I could really be myself and be the little weirdo I was and not be judged for it.”
As the six-time Grammy nominee and Tony nominee says in the video above, Little Shop of Horrors was the musical she performed in that changed her life. “I was Audrey in my high school production, but I was one of the street urchins in a community theatre production, and I just loved it,” she shares. Now, she prepares to play Mary Magdalene in the live television broadcast.
As for Jesus himself, John Legend grew up performing in church plays at a young age and, in high school, he performed in the ensembles of quintessential shows. “I was a slave in Big River. I was a Russian in Fiddler on the Roof. And, I was in the chorus in You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown in my freshman year in high school,” says Legend. “We would do original type things that, as a group, we'd just come up with. We did one on the AIDS crisis when we were kids in high school, and then even in church we would do Christmas musicals and things like that growing up.”
Rehearsing for Jesus Christ Superstar takes Legend back to those childhood days, but “with a lot more budget and production values.”
Ruthie Fierberg is the Senior Features Editor of Playbill covering all things theatre and co-hosting the Opening Night Red Carpet livestreams on Playbill's Facebook. Follow her on Twitter @RuthiesATrain, on Instagram @ruthiefierceberg, or via her website.