The success of Fox’s Grease: Live – and by success I mean “not a complete failure” – has to encourage Fox in their plans for another live musical scheduled for next month. The Passion will portray the last hours of the life of Christ and is scheduled to air on Palm Sunday, March 20.
The narrative of the passion, depicting the events leading up to and through Christ’s crucifixion, has been portrayed dozens of times on film and TV. This version is based off a 2006 BBC production that is more pop-culture than pious, and was written by Peter Barsocchini, the writer behind the High School Musical series.
Tyler Perry will head the show as a narrator and the cast includes Jencarlos Canela as Jesus Christ, Trisha Yearwood as Mary, singer Prince Royce as Peter, and Chris Daughtry as Judas. Today it was announced that Seal has signed on for the role of Pontius Pilate. Carlos’ career has taken off in Spanish language roles, most recently in the Eva Longoria comedy Telenovela.
Staging will be unique among live musical broadcasts, which are generally set in one theater on one stage. Though details are being closely guarded, the rumor is that this one will be staged at several well-known landmarks around New Orleans, and include one scene with a crowd carrying a 20-foot cross.
Some cool footage of taping and rehearsals in this preview:
NBC broadcast a live musical version of The Sound of Music in 2013, starring Carrie Underwood and Stephen Moyer, which received mixed reviews from critics and widespread derision from viewers for Underwood’s acting abilities. It still managed to pull an audience of audience of more than 18 million, NBC’s highest rated non-sport broadcast since the series finale of Fraiser.
NBC followed up with Peter Pan Live! in 2014 starring Allison Williams, and The Wiz Live! in 2015 with Common, Ne-Yo, and Mary J. Blige. The Wiz came out better in reviews and ratings, pulling a 91% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes and 11.5 million viewers as the follow-on to Thursday Night Football. Peter Pan quietly faded from the spotlight, despite being watched by 9.2 million viewers.
Fox threw their hat in the ring with last month’s Grease! Live which recreated one of the country’s best-loved musical films. Julianne House stepped into the role of Sandy, Aaron Tviet wore Denny Zuko’s leather jacket, and Vanessa Hudgens took on the role of Rizzo despite losing her father to cancer earlier the same day. The show was produced in partnership with Paramount Television, the production company behind hit shows from Deadwood to I Love Lucy and Happy Days. The Passion is being produced by Dick Clark Productions for Fox.