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Fox is revving up its live musical slate for 2016.
The network has ordered a two-hour live broadcast of religious musical The Passion to be hosted and narrated by Tyler Perry, Fox announced Tuesday.
The telecast will air live from New Orleans on Palm Sunday, March 20, and feature a cast of yet-to-be-announced stars performing a variety of popular music arranged by executive producer Adam Anders (Glee, Rock of Ages).
Set in modern times, The Passion follows the dramatic and inspirational story of Jesus of Nazareth as he presides over the Last Supper and then is betrayed by Judas, put on trial by Pontius Pilate, convicted, crucified and resurrected. The story will unfold live at some of New Orleans’ most iconic locations, culminating in a procession of hundreds carrying a 20-foot illuminated cross from Champion Square outside the Superdome to the live stage at Woldenburg Park on the banks of the Mississippi River.
The Passion hails from the Netherlands and was created by Eye2Eye Media’s Jacco Doornbos. The Dutch version has been produced annually since 2011 and has built on its audience every year since.
The broadcast will be produced by Dick Clark Productions with Eye2EyeMedia and Anders Media Inc. Doornbos and The Passion: Netherlands’ David Grifhorst will executive produce with Allen Shapiro, Mike Mahan and Marc Bracco of Dick Clark Productions and Anders. Robert Deaton (CMA Awards) will serve as executive producer and showrunner.
“The Passion is both wonderfully entertaining and genuinely inspirational,” Fox Entertainment president David Madden said in a statement. “We are so thrilled to have the multi-talented Tyler Perry join us for this epic music production. He is the perfect host to lead the cast — and viewers — through the streets of New Orleans in this contemporary re-telling of a timeless story.”
The order comes a little more than a month before Fox’s first live musical event: Grease Live, which is set to premiere Jan. 31. The decision to double down on live musical events comes in the wake of NBC’s recent success with The Wiz Live!, which grabbed a 3.4 rating with adults 18-49 and earned praise from critics and viewers for its star-studded and diverse cast.
Fox also has a third musical event in the works: a remake of musical The Rocky Horror Picture Show, headlined by Orange Is the New Black‘s Laverne Cox.
“The Passion is one of the most exciting and compelling projects that I have ever been involved with,” said Anders. “I cannot wait to bring the greatest story ever told to life through music in a way that has never been heard before. To be able to create new arrangements of some of the biggest songs of all time to create a live ‘film score’ is a creative dream for me.”
The Passion also fits into the trend of increased religious fare on TV following the staggering success of The Bible miniseries on History in 2013. However, subsequent similar projects (CBS’ The Dovekeepers and NBC’s A.D. The Bible Continues) pulled in more modest ratings earlier this year.
Said Mark Bracco, executive vp programming and development for Dick Clark Productions, “This Palm Sunday television 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, bringing the sacred and secular together.”
Perry, whose credits include Gone Girl and The Haves and the Have Nots, is repped by WME and Ziffren Brittenham.
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