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Christ’s ‘passion’ through N.O. streets

Christ’s final hours will come to life in spectacular fashion on Palm Sunday – March 20 – when Fox airs “The Passion,” a two-hour, live musical event filmed entirely in New Orleans.

Bolstered by a soundtrack of contemporary songs performed live by the cast, the epic television event, which airs from 7 to 9 p.m., will be a modern retelling of Christ’s passion, following Jesus as he eats with his friends at the Last Supper, is betrayed by Judas, put on trial by Pontius Pilate, walks to his crucifixion and rises from the dead.

“This Palm Sunday televi- sion event is a modern-day production of the most famous story of all time, full of universal themes, which we hope provides a unifying experience (that brings) the sacred and secular together,” said Mark Bracco, executive vice president of programming and development at Dick Clark Productions, one of the event’s three executive producers.

Cast includes Yearwood

The Scripture-based narrative, written by Peter Barsocchini, will unfold live on a stage erected in Woldenberg Park and through a series of pre-taped segments broadcast on the stage’s jumbo screen.

Large, lighted cross

A highlight of the production will be the simultaneous mile-and-a-half procession of a 20-foot illuminated cross from Champions Square to Woldenberg Park.

Hosting and narrating the event from the Woldenberg Park stage will be New Orleans-born actor and film producer Tyler Perry. Actor, singer and songwriter Jencarlos Canela will portray Christ, and three-time Grammy winner Trisha Yearwood will play Mary.

The cast also includes Seal as Pontius Pilate; Chris Daughtry as Judas; and Prince Royce as Peter.

“I think New Orleans is the best place to have ‘The Passion’ for one reason,” said Perry, speaking in a Fox interview. “Literally, the town rose again, and to come through so much tragedy and so much darkness and find love and find compassion and find forgiveness – I think the city of New Orleans is the perfect backdrop for the story that has a lot of the same things to say.”

As Perry narrates the story from the Woldenberg stage, a giant cross, reminiscent of a glowing light box, will be carried by a pre-selected group of volunteers from Champions Square through the French Quarter, with an anticipated 30,000 spectators lining the route.

Pre-taped scenes of “The Passion” will depict Christ and his disciples interacting in iconic New Orleans locations such as Audubon Park, the French Quarter, McDonoghville Cemetery, Duncan Plaza and Jackson Square.

Producers will intermittently cut to the live procession, interspersing these images with the live action taking place on the Woldenberg stage and the pre-taped visuals.

Producers of “The Passion” said that while the narrative is faithful to Scripture, it promises to rivet viewers in a new way by being set in contemporary times. For example, the actors will be costumed in street clothes, rather than the robed garments of Jesus’ time. In the arrest scene, Christ will be seen in an orange jumpsuit and metal handcuffs, and his captors in modern-day law enforcement uniforms.

The music, sung live by cast members, includes songs made famous by Whitney Houston, Imagine Dragons, Evanescence, Jewel, Tina Turner, Katy Perry and Hoobastank.

The format of “The Passion” was originally created in the Netherlands in 2011 by Jacco Doornbos and Eye2Eye Media. Since then it has become the country’s highest-rated live musical television event, a pop culture phenomenon that commanded nearly half of the Dutch TV-viewing market share when it aired in 2015.

Cathedral prayer time

A prayer hour, sponsored by the Archdiocese of New Orleans and held independently from the Fox network, will follow “The Passion” from 9 to 10 p.m. at St. Louis Cathedral. Opportunities for the sacrament of reconciliation and reflection will be available at this “After The Passion” event, sponsored by the following archdiocesan entities: the Offices of Communications, CYO/Youth and Young Adult Ministries and Evangelization; Ecumenical Officer Father Buddy Noel; Dumb Ox Ministries; and the staff of St. Louis Cathedral.

In addition to watching “The Passion” on Fox, there are two ways to participate in the live show in New Orleans: Adults ages 18 and older can apply to take part in the group that carries the illuminated cross in procession; and those who wish to attend the live event at Woldenberg Park can register for free general admission tickets. Both options are available at

Beth Donze can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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