The Passion Live airs tonight at 8 pm on FOX. It stars American Idol 5 singer Chris Daughtry as Judas and Jencarlos Canela as Jesus Christ. The production also features Tyler Perry as The Narrator, Prince Royce as the disciple Peter, Seal as Pontius Pilate and Trisha Yearwood as Mary, the mother of Jesus.
The Passion, written by Peter Barsocchini (High School Musical), tells the story of the last hours of Jesus Christ’s life on earth through passages from the Bible and playlist of contemporary popular music, sung by the cast, and arranged by executive producer Adam Anders (Glee, Rock of Ages).
Set in modern day, the event will follow the dramatic and inspirational story of Jesus of Nazareth, as he presides over the Last Supper, and then is betrayed by Judas, put on trial by Pontius Pilate, convicted, crucified and resurrected. The production will broadcast live from the streets of New Orleans.
For the set list and songs, check out iTunes where you can download the cast album. Chris will perform “Demons” by Imagine Dragons with Jencarlos Canela and “Bring Me To Life” by Evanescence. Phillip Phillips’ “Home” will be sung by Jencarlos Canela and Prince Royce as Peter the Disciple.
ETA: The Passion Live had its moments, but overall was a strange and disjointed experience. The biggest mistake was sending a reporter out in the street to interview the regular folks carrying the cross to the mainstage. The story of The Passion speaks for itself. The modern parallels are self evident, particularly if the story is told well. I don’t need to literally be reminded of the suffering of folks in New Orleans, especially if it’s breaking the flow of the narrative. The interviews would be a great idea for a behind the scenes look at the production, but as part of the live show, the cutaways to the street were jarring.
The casting was problematic, particularly Jencarlos Canela as Jesus. I get that he was playing Jesus as a humble young man from the mean streets. But he mumbled his way through the part as if he were a character in the Godfather. Jencarlos fared better on the musical numbers. The last song, “Unconditionally” was particularly moving–although the majestic staging was a huge assist. (I wonder if the Westin paid to have their hotel in the shot. Hm) He lacked the charisma and presence to play a larger than life figure like Jesus. And Prince Royce. Oy. His subpar acting as Peter ruined every scene he was in.
The standouts were Trisha Yearwood, whose beautiful voice brought the heartbreak of Mary to life. Although I am scratching my head at the decision to keep her confined to the mainstage without ever coming to face to face with her son. Her last song should have been a Mary/Jesus duet. And Chris Daughtry–he lit up the screen with his intense and dramatic portrayal of Judas, overshadowing Jencarlos in their “Demons” duet. Cast that man in a rock opera STAT. Seal‘s musical numbers were strong, but his line readings were unfortunately stilted. Gospel singer, Yolanda Adams opened (“When Love Takes Over” and closed the show with two rousing performances. The Saints Go Marching In with the cast on stage was the perfect way to end.
Tyler Perry was fine as the narrator, but there was TOO MUCH. I expected the story to be portrayed rather than told to me. The idea behind The Passion is creative and daring, and if FOX decides to mount the production again next year, a few tweaks and better casting could result in a terrific two hours of television.
Watch this space for videos.
Home by Phillip Phillips performed by Jencarlos Canela and Prince Royce
Bring Me to Live by Evanescence performed by Chris Daughtry
Demons by Imagine Dragons performed by Chris Daughtry and Jencarlos Canela
Unconditionally by Katy Perry performed by Jencarlos Canela