For those that observe Palm Sunday, you’d be hard-pressed to find a celebration more extravagant than Fox’s live broadcast of The Passion, a contemporary retelling of the story of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection, set on the streets of New Orleans.
Starring Jencarlos Canela (Telenovela) as Jesus, American Idol‘s Chris Daughtry as Judas and singer Seal as Pontius Pilate, the two-hour broadcast updated just about every aspect of the Bible’s story to fit modern society. (If you need proof that this adaptation takes place in 2016, look no further than Jesus’ Last Supper, which used loaves and fishes from a food truck.)
Coming off the success of January’s buzzy Grease: Live, Fox had its own big shoes to fill with The Passion as its follow-up — and given that the broadcast took place at New Orleans’ most iconic locales, it arguably gave Grease a run for its money in terms of size and scope. But did the network’s contemporary version do justice to a cornerstone of Christianity?
Before you grade Sunday’s production, let’s break down a few notable (if sometimes puzzling) moments:
* We’re beginning to wonder if Fox’s musical should have been titled The Passion Live*, with a clear footnote stating it would only be half-live. Up until Jesus’ public condemnation, all of the songs were performed via pre-taped music videos — which, strangely, still required Canela & Co. to wear their microphones and in-ear monitors. We’re all for those glossy, well-edited packages, but we’d already gotten our hopes up for a thoroughly live evening.
* Also jarring? The periodic appearances from HLN/CNN correspondent Nischelle Turner, who conducted man-on-the-street interviews with the civilians carrying Jesus’ 20-foot illuminated cross through New Orleans. Don’t get us wrong; the live production drew much of its energy from the emotion of the Louisiana crowd. But woven in between Tyler Perry’s compelling narration and the cast’s moving musical performances, Turner’s news reports seemed misplaced.
* Speaking of moving performances, Trisha Yearwood slayed her five songs, did she not?
* Also, is American Idol grad Adam Lambert cool with sharing the throne for Best “Mad World” Performance? Because Seal’s powerful cover of the song was one of the evening’s high points — but not as poignant, of course, as Jesus’ resurrection, set to a surprisingly fitting cover of Katy Perry’s “Unconditionally.”
OK, your turn. What did you think of Fox’s Passion production? Grade it in our poll below, then hit the comments with all of your thoughts on the musical.