By RODNEY HO/ originally filed Monday, March 21, 2016
Two major Georgia figures dominated Sunday night’s live “The Passion” musical on Palm Sunday: Tyler Perry as the narrator and Trisha Yearwood as Mary.
The show included pre-taped scenes featuring Jesus and his disciples in their final hours set in modern-day New Orleans, Perry’s hometown. Perry hosted a live show on a huge white stage with a big audience and a choir. There was also a lit 20-foot cross that crossed the city and a news correspondent talked to marchers.
Songs were primarily pop hits from the past 15 years by the likes of Hoobastank, Katy Perry and Creed.
Early ratings reports were good but not as good as those of previous live musicals such as NBC’s “The Wiz” and “The Sound of Music” and Fox’s “Grease Live” from January. It looks to have pulled in around 7 to 8 million viewers compared to about 12 million overnight viewers for “Grease.” (Fox estimates with DVR usage, it will ultimately draw about 8.5 million viewers.)
Georgia native Yearwood sang Whitney Houston‘s “My Love is Your Love,” Jewel’s “Hands,” Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up,” musical classic “You’ll Never Walk Alone” and Lifehouse’s “Broken.”
Equal parts sermon and Super Bowl halftime show, Fox’s The Passion live event from New Orleans tonight was an Easter basket overstuffed with sincerity, good intentions and hammy musical performances, all melting into a big batch of goo faster than a chocolate bunny in the sun.
In some ways, this was the perfect portrayal of Jesus for the 21st century. It was rich in the familiar imagery of urban bourgeoise consumerism (there wasn’t a poorly dressed person in sight). It mostly subbed in top pop songs for tunes with explicitly religious messages (only a few numbers actually referred to angels or God). The Passion was heavy on spirituality, with only light pepperings of theological specificity.
The network’s semi-live, semireligious musical pageant “The Passion” on Sunday night recalled a lot of modern television spectacles meant to circumvent the DVR — Super Bowl halftimes, “American Idol,” New Year’s Eve broadcasts. And every time poor Trisha Yearwood had to stand up in the New Orleans twilight and sing a song she wasn’t really suited for, it recalled nothing so much as a shopping mall grand opening.