Photo credit: James Dimmock/NBC
Choreographer Camille A. Brown is having a year that she will never forget. She is navigating the concert dance world with her company, Camille A. Brown & Dancers as well as the theatre world with the Broadway revival of Once On This Island. Now, she’s making her television debut by choreographing Sunday’s telecast of Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert starring John Legend and Sara Bareilles. It’s a moment she’s truly grateful for.
Dance Network spoke to Brown earlier this week while she was in the midst of camera blocking the show. “It’s really exciting. It’s all coming together,” she said.
The amazing thing for Brown is that Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert wasn’t an opportunity she was pursuing. She met with director David Leveaux about the project. Brown thought he was going to ask her to audition, but he was there to offer her the job.
“When I first accepted the meeting, I thought, Well, that’s never going to happen. I’ll never get this job,” she laughed. “David said he had seen some of my concert dance work and had been following me for a couple of years. So he was familiar with the type of choreographer I was. He had been watching.”
Photo credit: Dia Dipasupil/NBC
Since Brown’s background is concert dance, she had not performed in a production of the show growing up or during her career as a dancer. Her only frame of reference was the 1973 movie starring Ted Neeley and Carl Anderson. Her mom was a fan of the film.
So coming into the production, the whole thing has been a “learning experience” for Brown, but she’s been well supported by her colleagues.
“This is the first time I’m ever doing something with TV. It’s really about collaborating with [executive producer] Alex [Rudzinski, known for Hairspray Live and Dancing With the Stars] and David,” she said. “We talk about the best shots to tell the story. It’s fascinating because the live audience will witness a different perspective than the TV audience. I never thought about it that way.”
The production has definitely strengthened her work as a choreographer because she has to think outside her comfort zone.
“Something I needed to be focused on was moving 35 people in space in ways that are interesting. I needed to create a flow for those stories and create a new movement language, thanks to the music,” she shared. “The music is different throughout the show — it’s hip-hop, it’s rock. I try to embody that in the choreography and complement the music.”
Brown revealed that the two numbers to look out for are “Jesus Christ Superstar” and Alice Cooper’s “King Herod’s Song.”
“I think Alice’s song is really great and fun,” Brown exclaimed. “It’s just exciting to be in the room with him.
One thing that’s for sure is that this show has definitely changed Brown in a wonderful way.
“I was telling one of the producers that I am the one with the least experience working on this TV show, but one has ever made me feel that way,” she explained. “It’s been a collaborative process and it’s empowering. I walk away feeling good about this project and what I’m capable of.”
Brown is now setting her sights on other TV projects since the door is now wide open for other opportunities. In the future, she would like to add directing to her skill set.
“I’ve always wanted to do television and movies. Hopefully, this is a moment where I’m putting it out into the universe that more opportunities like Jesus Christ Superstar start coming. The fact that I’m doing theatre, concert dance and now TV — it’s all coming together.”
‘Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert’ airs on Sunday, April 1 at 8 p.m. ET/7 p.m. CT on NBC.
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