It won’t be a parade, but a solemn televised procession will draw crowds to New Orleans streets on Sunday evening.
With native son and filmmaker Tyler Perry as narrator and host, the story of Jesus of Nazareth’s final hours will play out live this Palm Sunday on the FOX event, “The Passion.” The retelling will give a modern-day musical spin on those pivotal biblical moments as Jesus presides over the Last Supper, is betrayed by Judas, put on trial by Pontius Pilate, convicted, crucified and resurrected.
Stars from the music world will be performing a variety of popular songs, while the hundreds cast in the procession will carry a 20-foot illuminated cross from the Superdome to Woldenberg Park. Giant viewing screens and roving spotlights will add to the spectacle.
“New Orleans — the city that has come through so much tragedy and so much darkness is the perfect backdrop for ‘The Passion of Christ’ told in modern-day times,” Perry said in promoting the special. “‘The Passion’ is not your typical musical. It’s the story of Christ told all through the streets of New Orleans, surrounded by super talent, super music and me on stage hosting.
“My responsibility is to make sure that, as host and narrator, I keep the story moving, so I don’t feel like the pressure’s on me,” Perry said. “I feel like the pressure’s on Jesus.”
Perry said he jumped at the chance to be a part of bringing something encouraging and uplifting to audiences.
“Hope, forgiveness, love — the message of what Jesus was all about, something that I believe in personally as a Christian,” he said.
Stars of the production echoed their feelings on the seriousness of their roles, including telenovela star Jencarlos Canela as Jesus.
“Those words are very strong words. We can’t forget how human Jesus was. If we approach it from that angle, that’s my purpose with this role,” Canela said.
Former “American Idol” finalist and rock recording artist Chris Daughtry portrays the unpopular Judas.
“There’s a lot of emotions that go into what he did. Portraying that struggle, that’s what most interests me about the character, because it’s something very human and very relatable,” Daughtry said.
Interspersed with the live broadcast, some of Sunday night’s segments were shot in the city in advance, including the Last Supper scene featuring Daughtry, in the gardens of City Park.
Country star Trisha Yearwood, who grew up in the Methodist Church, said she’s honored to play Mary. “It’s so emotional just to read the script and hear the songs,” said Yearwood. “I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like to actually perform live in New Orleans with the action happening.”
The A-list cast also includes multi-platinum recording artist Prince Royce as Peter. Yolanda Adams, who has won multiple Grammy and Gospel Music Association Dove Awards, and Grammy Award-winning contemporary Christian music star Michael W. Smith also will appear, with Smith cast as one of Jesus’ disciples. British singer-songwriter Seal will play Pontius Pilate.
“To be a part of one of the greatest stories of all time is something that really appealed to me,” Seal said.
If you go
Those with general admission tickets can enter the park starting at 4:30 p.m.
The live show will run from 7-9 p.m. However, the ticket does not guarantee entrance, as this is a first-come, first-serve, rain-or-shine event.
Rules prohibit outside food or drink, weapons, glass or metal containers and any commercial or other unauthorized transmission, recording, photography or reproduction of the event, including live streaming. There is no re-admission. Chairs, seat cushions or tarps are not allowed, but blankets are OK. Food, drinks and restrooms will be available on site.
Watching from home
To participate in the event via social media, like THE PASSION on Facebook at facebook.com/ThePassionLive, follow the event on Twitter @ThePassionLive and join the discussion using #ThePassionLive. See photos and videos on Instagram @ThePassionLive. You can also follow THE PASSION on Facebook at facebook.com/FOXTV, Twitter @FOXTV, and Instagram @FOXTV. Catch a 360-degree video experience and more presented by the American Bible Society at ThePassion.com.
Behind the scenes
“The Passion” is produced by dick clark productions, along with Anders Media Inc. and Eye2Eye Media, the latter based in The Netherlands, where their original “The Passion” has been Holland’s highest-rated live musical television event annually since 2011. Peter Barsocchini (“High School Musical”) wrote the musical’s script.
Follow Judy Bergeron on Twitter, @judybergeronbr.