Review: The Southeast Christian Church Easter Pageant

Easter Pageant?!

What is this, amateur hour? Who cares about some piddly church passion play? What's next, "Best Little Christmas Pageant Ever"?

How's this for Piddly: Two professional composers, a 9000 seat auditorium, 75,000 tickets over a month-long run, a 300 person chorous, two IMAX-size video screens.

Traditionally, Southeast's Easter Pageant has been the biggest theatrical production in Louisville. They took a year off to retool and rework it, comissioning a rework from the ground up. Whereas the previous iteration had been a "cast of thousands" broadway-style production, they wanted something...different.

Hoo-boy, it was different.

Let's talk about "theatre" that is 1/2 movie, 1/2 live action. Apparently, they shot it at a quarry during last year's drought, and it looks pretty good. Still, I didn't like it...distracting and interrupts the flow.

Likes

  • It's not the same program they've put on for years.

  • Shows the human side of Jesus (humor, forthrightness). It's a much more Gospel of Mark picture than the uber-holy Gospel of John depiction.

  • The incorporation of Satan as a main character is great. You really see Gethsemane for the gut-wrenching, soul-searching decision point it must've been.

  • Concentration on the passion itself. There's no sweeping first act detailing the birth of Jesus. No wisemen on camels. Just like the Gospel of Mark, Jesus just appears to be baptized, calls his disciples, and gets to work on His ministry.

  • I liked the (non-scriptural) film scene where young jesus reads the scrolls prophesying his own torture and death for our sins. Well-done!


Dislikes

  • Not one memorable song.

  • Sometimes less is just...less. They took a broadway-esque shown and turned it into art-house fare. Dark lighting, smaller venues. Most of the massive, 3-story set goes to waste, as do most of the extras.

  • The music was too experimental. Minor-keys, even what sounded like some atonal stuff. At its heart, this is a passion play, people, not some avante-guard opus going for an award among the thespian set.

  • Violent, violent, VIOLENT. The passion is the story of the torture, death, and resurrection of Jesus. There's no avoiding that--it's gruesome at best. Still, images of roman soldiers nailing Jesus to the Cross start the production, and they punctuate it. The audience is never allowed to escape it, and that's too much for anyone under 10, I'd say. Whitney reported 5-6 year-olds weeping inconsolably in the bathrooms.

  • The director plays Jesus. Couldn't find anyone better? High opinion of one's self?

  • I didn't need the 20 MINUTE NON-SCRIPTURAL SCENE with the Samaritan woman at the well. Yes, she had 5 husbands and was living with another man. I can fill-in the blanks from there.


Overall, the irony strikes me: They chose to frame the story around the tersest, unadorned Gospel account (Mark), but layered it with all the SFX and theatrical capers they could manage--IMAX screens, SFX boat in the audience, rotating stage, etc.

Guess the money had to go somewhere, right?

Yeah, probably won't be going back. Doubt 75,000 people per year will, either. This production has jumped-the-shark.

All my own opinion, of course.

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