Fox isn’t going to let NBC be the epicenter of live musical television events. Rather than making viewers wait a full year for their next live musical presentation, Fox is planning a new special that will premiere in less than two months from now. Just in time for Easter, Fox will broadcast a musical adaptation of The Passion.
Don’t worry — Mel Gibson’s involvement hasn’t been announced (yet). But whether you’re new to the Christian tradition of passion plays or have participated in one yourself, we’ve got the full scoop on what to expect when The Passion airs in March.
1) Passion plays are an important ritual for many Christians around the world
Since the Middle Ages, Christian communities across the globe have staged elaborate theatrical productions that depict the Last Supper, trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. It is traditional for these plays to be performed during the Easter season. And although the basic story elements are universal, passion plays often incorporate imagery and customs that are unique to the cities, countries and cultures in which the plays are performed.
2) The Passion has its roots in Europe
In 2006, the BBC aired a contemporary musical adaptation of the traditional passion play titled Manchester Passion. Eschewing traditional hymns and holy music, Manchester Passion relied on British pop music to tell the story of Jesus, incorporating songs like Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” The Smiths’ “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” and New Order’s “Blue Monday.” The successful production inspired a Dutch production company to conceptualize The Passion, a “large-scale, live cultural pop event” set in different cities throughout the Netherlands and starring notable Dutch pop stars. The Passion has aired on Dutch TV every year since 2011, and that production is now being adapted for American audiences by Dick Clark Productions.
3) The Passion has more in common with High School Musical than The Passion of the Christ
As previously mentioned, the European incarnation of The Passion is all about contemporary pop music, and the American version will follow suit. Fittingly, this version is written by Peter Barsocchini, best known as the writer of High School Musical and its sequels.
4) Tyler Perry is the face of the show
You’d think that Jesus would be the star of any passion play, but this one has a narrator. And that narrator is getting very prominent billing.
Perry’s not a newcomer to Christian programming; many of his films address religious ideas and individuals. It’s no surprise, then, that he’ll be taking a very visible role in The Passion.
5) The rest of the cast is impressive, too
Keeping with the style of Manchester Passion and the Dutch version of The Passion, Fox’s production will star American pop and country stars. Keep an eye out for Jencarlos Canela as Jesus, Chris Daughtry as Judas and Trisha Yearwood as Mary.
6) The production will make use of New Orleans landmarks
The Passion isn’t set in any Broadway theater or Hollywood sound stage — fittingly, it will be on the streets of a major American city. The show will be airing live from New Orleans, and though specifics are being carefully kept under wraps, it is said to be filmed at a variety of well-known landmarks. One climactic moment will feature a group of hundreds carrying a 20-foot cross from the Superdome to Woldenberg Park.
7) The Passion will air on Palm Sunday
If you’ve got plans to be with family on Easter Sunday, don’t fret — you will still be able to watch The Passion. It airs a week earlier, on March 20, at 8/7c.
Are you excited to watch The Passion this Easter season? Curious to learn more about Fox’s latest live musical production? Check out the trailer below.