Easter Mysteries is a passion play like no other, and sadly, you only have one chance to see it. In a partnership between SimonSays Entertainment and Fathom Events, Easter Mysteries will be presented for one night only in 300 movie theaters across the country on Tuesday, March 22, at 7:00 p.m. The Easter celebration features original music and a multi-ethic Broadway cast. However, what could be the most intriguing portion of the night is an interfaith panel discussion, featuring leaders in the Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths all sharing what the presentation meant to them.
While Easter Mysteries is technically a film, it is of a live performance of the program directed by Daniel Goldstein. Known for his 2011 revival of Godspell as well as directing over 100 other play productions, Goldstein created Easter Mysteries with a modern audience in mind. The set, as well as the costumes, is minimal in design but has a majestic vibe. Modern audiences will also appreciate that the dialogue is less stilted than one would expect from a biblical-themed show. Instead, the lines are written in a way that modern people actually speak. Goldstein wanted his program to not just be a biblical story, but be relatable as well by showing the disciples as real people with hopes, dreams, and fears.
Unlike other passion plays, Easter Mysteries begins right before the Last Supper and ends with Jesus' ascension to heaven. Instead of showing the blood and gore of the crucifixion, the program emphasizes on the play's more important themes of salvation and forgiveness. This version of the story is also told from the disciple Peter's point of view, something that is rarely, if ever, done. It is also different in that women play a larger role than in the traditional story. Yes, Jesus' disciples are all played by men and figure prominently in the first half of the story, but the program emphasizes the value of the women after the resurrection. Easter Mysteries may also be the first production to feature an African American for the role of Jesus, which might seem controversial at first, but there is no statement being made here. Smith, as with all of the actors, is just playing a role.
Wallace Smith, who began his career on Broadway as part of the ensemble of The Lion King, plays Jesus. Joining Smith on stage for Easter Mysteries are other Broadway actors including Phillip Boykin (Porgy and Bess, On the Town) as Caiaphas, Erin Davie (Side Show, Grey Gardens, Drood) as Mary, Kevin Early (A Tale of Two Cities, Thoroughly Modern Millie) as Peter, and Stephen Lee Anderson (Spiderman, Wicked, Fiddler on the Roof) as Herod.
The music, libretto, and lyrics for Easter Mysteries was written by Tony Award-winning producer John O'Boyle, and musical arrangements and direction is by Milton Granger (Mary Poppins).
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the night is the interfaith panel that follows. Can Christians, Catholics, Jews, and Muslims really see eye to eye when it comes to the story of Jesus' death and resurrection? The answer may surprise you. Among those on the panel are:
- Sister Sanaa Nadim, Muslim Student Association Chaplain, State University of New York at Stonybrook
- Evangelist Joyce L. Rodgers, Founder and CEO of Primary Purpose Ministries, Inc.
- The Most Reverend John J. O'Hara, Auxiliary Bishop of New York
- Rabbi Joseph Potasnik, Executive Vice President, New York Board of Rabbis and co-host of Religion on the Line on WABC radio in NY
- Tony Suarez, Executive Vice President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
- Fr. Brian McWeeney, Director of Interreligious and Ecumenical Affairs, Archdiocese of New York.
[Photo courtesy of SimonSays Entertainment]