Alice Cooper will take Jesus Christ Superstar to the next level. The music legend is set to reprise his role as King Herod for NBC’s live production of Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic rock opera, but this time he will be seen and heard.
In 1996, Alice Cooper took part in a cast album that was released for a London revival of the show, recording the track “King Herod’s Song” for the project. Cooper recalled that at the time, lyricist Tim Rice told him he wanted the part of Herod to be “a little bit more cynical and be a little bit more threatening.” Now, Alice is ready to make the “puppet king” his own on NBC’s stage. According to the Detroit Free Press, Alice said the following.
“Herod is like a swirling ball of paranoia and ego and that’s why it’s fun to play him. In the show, I play him like everything’s about him, not about Jesus.”
Alice Cooper’s King Herod has only one number in the live musical, the aforementioned “King Herod’s Song,” which comes near the end of the second act as Herod and his soldiers mock Jesus. For his scene, the shock rocker plans to give his character that menacing attitude Rice was looking for 22 years ago.
“He starts out being very egotistical, bigger than life,” Cooper said of Herod. “Then he gets more and more violent. He gets more and more aggressive towards Jesus. So at the end, he’s just right in his face. I think you see Herod going from silly ego to really angry and then back.”
Alice Cooper also revealed that he plans to bring some of himself to Herod courtesy of his costume, makeup, and overall attitude. Director David Leveaux reportedly wants Cooper to “throw a little Alice in there” with a dark, rock star quality as the music legend performs Herod’s signature song.
Alice Cooper seems to agree. In fact, it’s the “Welcome to My Nightmare” singer’s opinion that “If (Herod) were in this era, he would have been a glam rock star.”
Alice Cooper also admits that he was typecast when he was asked to play King Herod in Jesus Christ Superstar—and he has no problem with that.
“It’s not like anyone’s ever going to cast me as the guy untying the girl on the railroad track,” Alice said, according to the Daily Beast. “But I love playing the villain.”
In order to play the “cynical” Herod character, Cooper revealed that he drew inspiration from late London stage star Alan Rickman. But it sounds like he is also making this part very much his own.
Alice Cooper was known for his wild lifestyle back in the day, but he has since embraced sobriety and his Christianity. Now he stands by Jesus Christ Superstar, even as some critics view the Easter Sunday production as sacrilegious.
“I think if it was blasphemous, I couldn’t do it,” Cooper said. “But this piece honors Christ, I think. The bad guys are the bad guys and the good guys are the good guys. It’s pretty cut and dried.”
When Alice Cooper got the call for Jesus Christ Superstar, the role he was given did not surprise him at all.
“Wouldn’t you know that they would give me the part of the villain?” Cooper told Rolling Stone. “When this opportunity came across, they said, ‘Hey, why don’t you be in Jesus Christ Superstar?’ And I said, ‘I’m either Judas or Herod, right?'”
As a Christian, Cooper can reconcile playing Herod because he looks at the role “purely as a piece of art.”
“In the back of my brain, there are times when I get really mad when I read the Passion Play on how Jesus was treated, and it really angers you,” Alice said. “Then at the same time, you go, ‘Oh, wait a minute, I’m playing the part of one of the guys that does this.’ I look at it purely as a piece of art, and it’s directly out of the Bible. I might have a harder time playing Judas than I would playing Herod. It would be hard to play the guy that stabs him in the back.”
In addition to Alice Cooper, Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert stars John Legend as Jesus, Sara Bareilles as Mary Magdalene, and Broadway alum Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas.
Jesus Christ Superstar airs live on Sunday, April 1 at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.