As one of the stars of the 2016-17 national tour of the Tony Award-winning musical "Fun Home," Charlotte native Abby Corrigan had more than 400 chances to fine-tune her performance as Medium Alison over the course of 14 months.
But with NBC's Easter Sunday presentation of "Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert," Corrigan (along with the 34 other ensemble performers and marquee stars like John Legend, Sara Bareilles and Alice Cooper) will get just one shot on just one night.
That's right: As it says in the title, it's live — no retakes or reshoots or do-overs.
"That definitely puts a little bit of pressure on me, but I'm going to try to treat it as if we have many more (shows), to make it less worrisome for me to like super-nail it," says Corrigan, 20. "So much of it is ... pushing yourself enough, but also just being where you are, in the moment that you're living in, and not trying to make it 'So Amazing For This One Time!' It will be amazing if you just allow it to happen to you."
Though it's a small role, it's a big deal for an actress whose biggest claim to fame just four short years ago was collecting a Blumenthal Performing Arts High School Musical Theater Awards for her portrayal of Princess Fiona in "Shrek the Musical" for Northwest School of the Arts.
Then in 2016, she got her big break after auditioning for and winning a principal role in "Fun Home," which was adapted from graphic novelist Alison Bechdel's books about growing up with a father was a closeted gay man; she herself came out at 18. The musical was split into three sections that each cover a different period of Bechdel's life, with Corrigan playing the part of Medium Alison, which saw Bechdel in college.
"Fun Home" ran from Oct. 2, 2016, to Dec. 3, 2017 and became "everything to me — everything that I've ever wanted in a show. We were such a family. It's crazy. All of us got along insanely well, which I thought was a normal thing. But I talked to my stage manager and he was like, 'You don't get this a lot. This is really special.'"
Before the tour's closing night in Tampa, Fla., Corrigan says the director gave the cast some very specific direction:
"He was like, 'Listen, I don't want to see any crying. Don't overdo it. Tell the story. Don't cry.' And I held it, man. And that finale ("Flying Away"), it's a really emotional song, but I held it all in. Then right when Kate (Shindle, who played Alison Bechdel) said her last line, I'm like, 'I can't hold this in anymore,' and I just burst into tears. It was a really emotional moment. I mean, I'm gonna cry right now just thinking about it. Oh, it was amazing. I miss it, a lot. I miss being on tour with them."
After the show closed, Corrigan came home to Charlotte to grieve and regroup for a month, then moved to New York (where she now shares an apartment with her "Fun Home" understudy, Caroline Murrah). She didn't stay unemployed long. Within weeks of co-signing her lease in the city, she landed the job on "Jesus Christ Superstar."
The musical — based on the final week of Christ's life — was born in 1970 as a concept album, with music by Andrew Lloyd Webber and lyrics by Tim Rice. It came to Broadway the following year, earning five Tony nominations, then was made into a feature film in 1973. There have been three Broadway revivals, in 1977, 2000 and 2012; NBC announced the live TV musical last May.
The special will air at 8 p.m. this Sunday, and marks the network's fifth live televised musical since 2013's "The Sound of Music." While the other four have incorporated multiple sets across multiple sound stages and quick costume changes, "Jesus Christ Superstar" will take place entirely on the huge stage at the Marcy Armory in Brooklyn, N.Y., and will feel more like a rock concert than a traditional musical. The show is sung-through, with no spoken dialogue, and a live audience of more than 1,300 people will be leaned on to help create an electric feel around the proceedings.
In promoting the special, NBC clearly is hanging its hat on the star power of R&B singer John Legend (who plays Jesus), pop singer Sara Bareilles (Mary Magdalene) and hard rocker Alice Cooper (King Herod), but audiences can expect to see Corrigan (who plays one of the 12 apostles) pop up on camera several times throughout the evening.
The former Charlottean even gets a brief moment to shine:
"I sing one line (solo) as a leper ... which is great. But that's it. Most of all, I'm just moving and shaking, sliding on the floor and getting lifted up and stuff," Corrigan says. "But the best part about it is you're really gonna see everybody in the show. Even if we're not singing a solo, because it's such a huge ensemble show, we're all very much featured."
Corrigan credits "Jesus Christ Superstar" as inspiring her to pursue theater, and admits to having had a crush on Carl Anderson (who played Judas in the 1973 film). But she says NBC's Judas — Tony nominee Brandon Victor Dixon — is even better.
"I just love the conflict between Judas and Jesus," she says. "It's very emotional, and I totally want to be Judas. He has just such a great and amazing and scary journey, because he's almost in love with this man. He has so much love for Jesus, and he can't live with himself.
"I think it's such a simple story of love and compassion and what is the cost of power, but it's also just a love story. And not even in the 'I want to make out with you and have sex with you' kind of love story; it's true love for someone that changes you. I think that's really a beautiful thing to watch. And Brandon is just unbelievable as Judas. You're going to die. He's incredible."