The Passion Live, a New Orleans live musical event hosted by Tyler Perry, aired on Fox last night, Palm Sunday, March 20. The event was a live musical that took place in downtown New Orleans in various iconic locations. It was presented onstage at the outdoor arena in Woldenburg Park along the banks of the Mississippi river. Perry narrated the story, which was punctuated by live films of Jesus (played by Jencarlos Canela) and his disciples presented on large screens. Peter was played by Prince Royce, Judas was portrayed by Chris Daughtry, and Michael W. Smith and Shane Harper (God is Not Dead) were two other disciples of Jesus. Although The Passion was set in modern day times with modern day clothing and modern day songs, the story is still the same, depicting how Jesus was betrayed, condemned, crucified and rose again.
CBS News described the images of The Passion Live onscreen as being “of today’s generation.” Judas wore a black leather jacket, the disciples met in a coffee bar, and when Judas betrayed Jesus, police in riot gear took Jesus away in a police car. When Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate, played by Seal, he was in an orange jumpsuit. CBS News reported that perhaps the most revolutionary part of The Passion was the choice of music. Other than the opening and closing songs, which were performed by gospel singer Yolanda Adams, all the songs in the musical were mainstream music hits but they seemed to fit perfectly with the theme of The Passion.
The Passion live musical event began by Perry introducing the story of Jesus’ last days on a huge white stage flanked on both sides by two balconies that held choir members all dressed in white. Tyler Perry said that New Orleans was near and dear to him, as it was his hometown. Perry introduced the musical by saying, “Tonight, the most celebrated story of all time told like you have never seen it before. Welcome to The Passion.” Tyler talked about how The Passion would “follow the final hours of the life of Jesus Christ, shared in the language of today with familiar characters, transformed into our modern world.”
“It’s a story about friendship, betrayal, faith and forgiveness. Things that speak to us all…..but ultimately, The Passion is about the power of love.”
Tyler then introduced Yolanda Adams onto the stage, who sang “When Love Takes Over” (David Guetta feat. Kelly Rowland). After Adams left the stage, Tyler said that New Orleans was chosen for The Passion event because of the fact that New Orleans had not too long ago been devastated by hurricane Katrina and the city was left with suffering and despair. Tyler said that love and renewal can also arise from suffering and that was what New Orleans was, and that was why the story of The Passion was as “meaningful today as it was over 2,000 years ago, maybe even more so.”
The first scene with Jesus and his disciples shows them riding on a trolley car, and singing “Love Can Move Mountains” (Celine Dion) along with the choir onstage. Later, Trisha Yearwood, who plays Mary, mother of Jesus, sings “My Love Is Your Love” (Whitney Houston), Jesus and Peter sing “Home” (Phillip Phillips), and Jesus sings “With Arms Wide Open” (Creed), when he is breaking bread with his disciples during the last supper. Jesus had already told his disciples that He would be put to death and during the last suppler, he says that one of them will betray him. The scene then cuts back to Mary who sings “Hands” (Jewel). Judas had left the group, and after Mary sings, Judas sings “Bring Me To Life” (Evanescence), while the other disciples fall asleep. Jesus tells Peter to keep watch while He prays. As Jesus is praying to God, he sings “Calling All Angels” (Train).
Cutting back to the main stage, Tyler says that Mary can sense that her son is in danger and she sings “I Won’t Give Up” (Jason Mraz). When Jesus goes back to the group and sees Peter asleep, he reprimands him for not keeping watch, and tells Peter that he will deny Him three times before the night is over. Then Judas appears with policemen in riot gear, and gives Jesus a hug and kisses him on the cheek. Judas and Jesus sing “Demons” (Imagine Dragons) as a duet, and the police drag Jesus off as the disciples are dismayed and Peter runs off.
As Peter tries to keep from being identified and denies Jesus just as Jesus said he would, Peter sings “The Reason” (Hoobastank). Cutting back to the main stage, Mary sings “You’ll Never Walk Alone” (Gerry & The Pacemakers). When Jesus is brought before Pontius Pilate, they sing a duet, “We Don’t Need Another Hero” (Tina Turner). After Pontius asks the crowd if they would rather let Jesus go free or the murderer Barrabas, he sang “Mad World” (Tears for Fears).
During the whole time the event was taking place, a group of people had started carrying a 20-foot 250 pound cross from the Super Dome to the main stage. Perhaps one of the most breath-taking scenes was the one where the cross was being carried down Bourbon Street. After Pontius “washed his hands” of Jesus’ fate, the procession of over 200 people reached the stage, and Mary sang “Broken” (Lifehouse). After Perry described how Jesus was crucified and laid to rest in a secured tomb, he rose again in three days and the crowd cheered. Then, the camera cut to Jesus dressed all in white on top of a building singing “Unconditionally” (Katy Perry).
[Photo by Skip Bolen/Getty Images for dcp]