Review: “The Passion Live”

I first learned about The Passion Live while watching Grease: Live about two months ago on FOX. Based on previous live musical television events, I assumed the whole show would be performed live with original music to tell the story of Jesus’ crucifixion. What was televised during this Palm Sunday event was not what I expected.

The disciples from "The Passion Live"
The disciples from “The Passion Live”

From an outdoor stage in New Orleans Tyler Perry narrated the story of Jesus in front of a live audience. Perry, originally from New Orleans, decided to host this event from this location because he believes it is a resurrected city.

Despite the live narration and audience, calling this television event live was a stretch. Half of the theatrical and musical action was previously recorded. These segments were shown on a big screen to the live audience and the viewers at home.

The Passion Live reminded me of The Moulin Rouge because it was set in modern times and the storyline was supported by lyrics of popular songs. My favorite performance was Chris Daughtry (Judas) singing “Bring Me to Life” by Evanescence to portray Judas’ struggle of betraying Jesus. In addition to Chris’ excellent vocals, the words successfully conveyed Judas’ turmoil, and his rocker voice appropriately showed Judas’ angst.

Chris Daughtry, as Judas, in "The Passion Live"
Chris Daughtry, as Judas, in “The Passion Live”

Too much was attempted during this event. Previously recorded video segments were shown to tell the story. In between each segment Tyler Perry narrated to fill the gaps for the audience. Simultaneously, a large cross was carried throughout New Orleans by a growing crowd of locals. Different locals were interviewed throughout the evening, and unfortunately their interviews distracted from the production’s story. Throughout the evening, Trisha Yearwood (Mary) performed five live songs from the stage to depict the challenge Mary, the mother of Jesus, must have gone through in dealing with her son being crucified. Her live performances allowed the cross carriers to have enough time to successfully deliver it. Once the large, illuminated cross made it to the production stage, then everything was truly live.

The cross being carried on "The Passion Live"
The cross being carried on “The Passion Live”

The show was casted very well. Not familar with Jencarlos Canela (Jesus), I did not know how he would do in his role, but he was fabulous with his acting and singing. As expected, the amazing vocal stylings of Seal (Pontius Pilate) sounded flawless live. Despite Seal’s late entrance in the show, I am glad he was given two songs to perform.

Jencarlos Canela playing Jesus on "The Passion Live"
Jencarlos Canela playing Jesus on “The Passion Live”

From what I read on social media, viewers had different opinions of The Passion Live. Some questioned if the Gospel-message was actually shared. Even though the non-traditional songs throughout the evening were not what was expected for a Christian-based production, the actors’ dialogue was Biblical and Tyler Perry’s narration told the story that is celebrated during this spring season. People in the live audience were visibly moved, and that could very well have happened for viewers at home. Starting March 22 The Passion Live will be available on Netflix, so stream it, and see for yourself.

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