Fox will broadcast a live two-hour musical rendition of The Passion — about the final hours leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus — on Palm Sunday, March 20th.
The production has multiple tiers of weirdness, partly because it has to appeal to practically everyone. Not only is it being aired live, it’s being partially performed on a mile-long stretch of a public street in downtown New Orleans, where Jesus will be dragging a 20-foot illuminated cross. What could possibly go wrong when a blood-soaked Jesus, followed by lights, cameras, and cracking whips is paraded around a city known for drunken lewdness?
Anything. Which is why they’ve got my attention.
So far, the cast includes actor/director Tyler Perry as narrator, Latin pop star Prince Royal as the disciple Peter, and country music star Trisha Yearwood as blonde-haired, blue-eyed Mary, mother of Jesus. Yearwood was presumably selected for her ability to sing, though it probably doesn’t hurt to be part of a genre of music that won’t condemn her for starring in a Christian musical. Seeing that the casting directors are making an effort to cover everyone’s culture identity, it’ll be interesting to see if Jesus is actually performed by a Middle Eastern man.
And if that wasn’t enough for an entertainment overload, there’ll be an arsenal of pop music covers aiding in the storytelling.
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.”
Since all of this is hardly representative of biblical times, it won’t surprise you that they’re not conforming when it comes to the wardrobe and setting, either. Jesus will be trading in his loin cloth for a prison jumpsuit, leaving me to wonder why they even bothered with the cross — was an electric chair too clunky to drag a mile?
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.
Aside from Monty Python’s Life of Brian, not too many humorous crucifixions come to mind. However, Jesus in prison garb being lashed by uniformed police officers to the tune of Whitney Houston may be even less serious than a man left for dead singing, “Always look on the bright side of life.”
(Image via Shutterstock)