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Emmys FYC: Brandon Victor Dixon for ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

Brandon Victor Dixon’s Judas Iscariot in NBC’s Jesus Christ Superstar is one of the best performances of the season, and he should be considered for Outstanding Supporting Actor. I’m going to let you in on a little secret. Judas Iscariot is the best role in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Jesus Christ Superstar. Sure, Jesus gets to die on the cross and Mary Magdalene sings some beautiful ballads about loving our Lord and Savior, but Judas isn’t a stock villain. Broadway’s Brandon Victor Dixon infuses this Judas with necessary pathos, and steals the show. He should be nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a TV Movie or Limited Series.After the rocking overture (it’s one of my all-time favorite openings to any musical), the first person to sing isn’t Jesus–it’s Judas. “Heaven On Their Minds” is one of the best songs in the Lloyd Webber tenor canon, and it’s a make or break moment for every actor who plays Judas. Dixon quietly begins by expressing his doubts over Jesus’ followers, and then belts out his name, a wail that indicates to us that Dixon can clearly handle a score that has cause so many singers strife since the musical’s debut in the 1970’s. The crowed surrounding John Legend’s Jesus isn’t paying much attention to Dixon’s concerns as they shower Jesus with adoration and love, and the ensemble even pulls Dixon away from Legend. One of the best moments of the opening song is when Dixon sings, “All your followers are blind.” He indicates a female member of the cast, and she backs away dejected and hurt. These words have clearly never been uttered, and the way Dixon delivers it (simply, not yelling or screaming) makes it known that there is no swaying his feelings on this matter.

(Photo: NBC)

The end of the first act features Dixon singing “Blood Money” as he receives his payment for revealing Jesus’ whereabouts, but his next huge emotional moment comes in the second act when he sings “Judas’ Death.” This is one of the hardest songs in musical theater, and not only is it insanely high, but the emotional stakes are off the charts. Judas is horrified over Jesus’ beatings, and you can hear the regret and shame in Dixon’s singing. One of the most haunting moments comes when Dixon is alone on a dimly lit stage. He sings a small reprise of Mary’s “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” and he is utterly alone. He resembles a small boy who realizes the gravity of his actions and then he flees the stage in hysterical shame.When Dixon returns to sing the title number, it’s rousing and full of energy. Not very many actors can steal the spotlight from a pop star, but every time Dixon steps on stage, your eyes go to him. The vocal stamina Dixon showcases in all of his huge moments on stage prove that NBC made the right decision to borrow a season Broadway actor for this role (Dixon starred in both Hamilton and was nominated for a Tony Award for Shuffle Along). It also helps that Dixon call pull off belting out classical rock musical theater while also rocking a silver, spangled tank top. He embraces everything on stage.It should be noted that no actor from a live musical has been nominated for their performance. Nope, not Kristin Chenoweth for Hairspray or Vanessa Hudgens for Grease or even Mary J. Blige for The Wiz. Live musicals are big draws for nominations in technical categories, but it’s time that a performance is recognized. Dixon’s emotional turn is nothing only an emotional high of the season, but a reminder that Broadway actors do this 8 times a week. If you want to truly honor the craft of performance, nominate Brandon Victor Dixon for bringing that level of endurance and emotion to your homes with this live musical.