Thirty-seven years ago, Alice Cooper awoke throwing up blood.
“Everything that could go wrong was shutting down inside of me,” the legendary rocker recalled. “I was drinking with Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix and trying to keep up with Keith Moon and they all died at 27.”
Cooper says he realized he was going to have to either quit drinking or die. After exiting a hospital where doctors diagnosed him as a “classic alcoholic,” he never had the desire to drink again.
The “School’s Out” singer credits his recovery to God.
“My wife and I are both Christian,” the 70-year-old performer explains. “My father was a pastor, my grandfather was an evangelist. I grew up in the church, went as far away as I could from it — almost died — and then came back to the church.”
It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with a one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ.
“There’s nothing in Christianity that says I can’t be a rock star,” he continued. “People have a very warped view of Christianity. They think it’s all very precise and we never do wrong and we’re praying all day and we’re right-wing. It has nothing to do with that. It has to do with a one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ.”
The “Welcome to My Nightmare” performer has been married since 1976, says he has never been unfaithful, does Bible study daily and goes to church every Sunday. He also proudly says that his three kids have never had any trouble with drugs or alcohol.
Cooper — who delighted fans in the 1970s with his macabrely theatrical show — will be introduced to a new generation of fans this Sunday, when NBC airs a live version of the classic “Jesus Christ Superstar” starring John Legend.
He will be reprising the role of King Herod, which he first tackled in 2000 when “Superstar” writers Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice asked him to record “King Herod’s Song” as part of a London cast recording.
“When I first heard about it, I thought Alan Rickman — that condescending sort of arrogant character, and I kind of fashioned what I would do after what I thought Alan Rickman would do if he were alive,” he chuckles.
The NBC version of the rock opera “Jesus Christ Superstar” airs Sunday evening.
It will be the latest addition to the prime-time lineup of live TV musical remakes that kicked off five years ago with “The Sound of Music” While the shows often air at Christmas, this time it made sense for an Easter broadcast of the 47-year-old musical.
“It’s an iconic show. It’s meant a lot to a lot of people for a long time,” Legend said. “You want people who are fans of it already to be excited by our rendition. But then also we want to attract new people to the show, too.”
The musical explores the caustic intersection of politics and showbiz, using a pulsating guitar- and organ-driven score that includes “I Don’t Know How to Love Him,” ”Everything’s Alright” and “Superstar.”
Live TV musicals have become progressively more complex, with the use of cars and multiple locations, sometimes outdoors. But “Jesus Christ Superstar” will be more stripped down, an attempt to capture a concert vibe. It will be staged inside an armory in Brooklyn with about 12 cameras.
The actors will be augmented by a 32-piece band — including a mobile, all-woman string quartet — and 1,500 people will be in the audience, surrounding the action and interacting sometimes with the performers. The stage will be just 2 feet above a mosh pit.
“I’m so excited that we have a live audience to work with and to feel the energy of in the room because I think, as someone who’s a concert performer and now in the theater, that’s the missing link so much of the time,” said Bareilles, who plays Mary Magdalene.
Director David Leveaux is promising this version of the musical to be “very unpackaged, not neat, quite raw.” The rest of the cast includes Brandon Victor Dixon as Judas, Cooper as King Herod and Norm Lewis as Caiaphas.
Costume designer Paul Tazewell, who dressed the “Hamilton” cast, has picked flowing tunics and modern silhouettes. Choreographer Camille A. Brown will mix traditional social dances with hip-hop, New Orleans-style second-line dancing and The Charleston.
As for Cooper, he can’t wait though he had wished for a more virtuous characater.
“Wouldn’t you know that they would give me the part of the villain?” says the singer, a hint of amusement in his voice. “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?’ And they said, ‘Herod.’ I said, ‘OK, I knew that was coming.'” He laughs.
On a more serious note, Cooper says it would be hard playing Judas.
When asked by Rolling Stone if it was hard for him to play Herod, Cooper replied, “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. 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 [Jesus] in the back.