"It's not a traditional musical," said Adam Anders, the mega producer, Glee musical director and executive producer of Fox's The Passion,which airs live on Palm Sunday. "It's a musical event. There's no category you can put it in."
That's putting it mildly. The facts prompt a bit of head-scratching: The Passion will tell the 2,000-year-old story of Jesus' last hours through contemporary pop music, live in New Orleans, with hundreds of people carrying a 20-foot, illuminated cross through the city. You might think of it as The Passion-meets-Glee, with Tyler Perry as host. If that sounds like a lot, it is, but the team is confident that viewers will only get it when they watch, but enjoy it too.
"My hope and prayer," Perry said at the Television Critics Association event Friday, "is that it leaves people with a sense of hope-faith-forgiveness." Perry, a native of New Orleans, said the project interested him because of its untraditional nature. A faithful Christian, Perry said he was deeply influenced by the city's music - particularly the sounds coming from within the walls of the many churches - but also its resilience and ability to overcome, which makes it the perfect place to tell the story. Executive producer Jacco Doornbos has produced the Dutch version of the show since 2011; it's written by Peter Barsocchini, best known for his work on High School Musical.
The Passion is a modern story, so much so that when Jesus is arrested, we'll see cop cars; when he's jailed, he'll wear an orange jumpsuit. Country star Trisha Yearwood plays Mary, and Latin star Prince Royce plays Peter. But don't think they - or the soon-to-be-announced added stars — will be confined to their genres; Yearwood will take on Whitney Houston's "My Love Is Your Love," rearranged by Anders to suit the moment. Imagine Dragons' "Demons" plays at the pivotal point that Judas betrays Jesus. And with the city as a backdrop - there will be a massive stage in Woldenburg Park - they know to expect the unexpected, from emergency-vehicle sirens to fan encounters to rain and God-knows-what-else. "That's all part of the live excitement. Anything can happen," Doornbossaid.
The Passion airs live from New Orleans on Palm Sunday, March 20, at 8/7c on Fox.