032016 The Passion, New Orleans, LA

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In the Spring of 2016 I spent three weeks in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  One morning I was perusing the local paper (as is my habit when on vacation) and I read about an upcoming event that I found very intriguing.  It was a modernized version of The Passion of The Christ adapted by Tyler Perry, it was to be broadcast live on television as it was acted out in real time, it was all happening right in the French Quarter and best of all it was free.

So that’s what they had been setting up for at the waterfront.  Over the previous few days I had seen crews setting up a large stage and barricades in the park near the aquarium and my curiosity had been piqued.

March 20th, 2016 was a chilly night and windy so I donned my jacket (with both my pockets weighted down with chilled cans of Budweiser – gotta love New Orleans), poured myself a drink for the short walk (again, gotta love New Orleans) and headed to the park.  I was there early enough to get up to the fence separating the VIP section from the rest of us so I grabbed a spot, popped a can of Bud and waited to see what would happen.

When the show started it began broadcasting live from the impressive, multi-tiered stage right in front of me.  The host hosted, setting up the story and directing our attention to the big screens, where most of the evening’s action would take place.  The cameras were following Jesus live as he carried a giant neon cross through the French Quarter past the surprised crowds on Bourbon Street and zigzagging towards us in the park.  The ‘action’ would often cut back to my stage in the park, where Pontius Pilate (Seal) and Mary (Trisha Yearwood) interspersed their live parts with obviously pre-recorded bits featuring the disciples as the very-live wind whipped off of the adjacent Mississippi River and battered the players and the big screens without mercy.  

It was a show obviously geared towards the millions watching at home and not the hundreds of us watching it live.  For us the show was fragmented between live performers who mugged at the cameras and not the crowd and bits on the screen that were hard to see and hard to hear.  Still, it was well worth the money it didn’t cost to be there.  

The end of the show was actually pretty impressive, with Jesus appearing at the top of a nearby skyscraper illuminated by a phalanx of spotlights while the forceful wind ripped dramatically at his robe.  Actually what I remember most about this show was the poor, poor choir, dozens of them standing atop the tall stage in the cold unrelenting wind.  Every time the screens cut away from my stage the choir members would immediately band together and tightly hug each other for warmth.  The group was split in two, half atop the left tower and the other half atop the right, and as soon as they knew they were offscreen they gripped one another like hibernating garter snakes, shivering from the bitter cold and likely the very real fear that the swaying towers holding them could blow over at any minute.

Which I’m afraid would have made for pretty successful live television.

The poor souls, they were pert of something so big and they probably could not wait for it to be over.  I would have been in the same boat but I had all those Budweisers to keep me warm and interested, despite which I still found myself on pretty solid ground.  The beers I brought lasted right up until the show ended and to celebrate my perfect timing I went back to my room and refilled my pockets.

Like I say, you gotta love New Orleans.

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