Fox Staging The Passion, Live: How Trisha Yearwood, Imagine Dragons and NOLA Will Tell Jesus' Story

Fox’s staging of The Passion — a live, musical event that originated years ago in Holland — will use Trisha Yearwood’s pipes, music from Whitney Houston and others, and iconic New Orleans locations to tell the tale of Jesus’ final hours.

Written by Peter Barsocchini (High School Musical) and airing live from New Orleans on Palm Sunday, March 20, The Passion has Yearwood playing Mary, the mother of Jesus, while Latin pop star Prince Royce will play the disciple Peter. Jesus, who also sings, has yet to be cast but “we’ve narrowed in on someone I hope we’ll be announcing relatively shortly,” executive producer Mark Bracco said Friday at the Television Critics Association winter press tour.

Already a year-and-a-half in the planning, the musical will unfold at several iconic New Orleans locations — including the carrying a 20-foot cross from outside the Superdome to the main stage at Woldenburg Park, on the banks of the Mississippi River.

“It’s so different from anything else that’s been done on television,” said Tyler Perry, who serves as both an EP and as the live production’s narrator.

Unlike, say, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Passion not only features familiar, popular music but also contemporary wardrobe, and it makes no attempt to camouflage its setting. For example, Jesus’ procession with the cross could very well be interrupted by a firetruck racing to an emergency. And when he is arrested, it is by cops in police cars. Afterward, Jesus dons an orange prison jumpsuit.

The broadcast will take place rain or shine, said The Passion creator Jacco Doornbos, who shared that for Holland’s first four stagings, they enjoyed great weather — before getting slammed by a storm in Year 5. “But it turned out great, and even more emotional,” he said.

“That’s all part of the live excitement,” he added. “Anything can happen.”

Exec producer Adam Anders said Fox’s version will use “big, hit songs that everybody knows… in a completely new context” — such as when Imagine Dragons’ “Demons” scores Judas’ betrayal of Jesus, or when Mary sings Whitney Houston’s “My Love Is Your Love.”

“We’re just telling the story as it is, translating through music and emotions,” said Doornbos.

Has The Passion piqued your interest?

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