Palm Sunday performance kicks off passion week
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In less than six minutes, James Hough, playing Jesus in Faith Family's production of "AD33," washed theater-quality stage blood from his body, blew dry his hair, and emerged from a tomb in a clean white gown.
Pyrotechnics erupted from various areas of the stage, as dozens of first century, period-cloaked actors rushed to Hough's side - squeezing his waist and cheering the divine son's resurrection from the grave.
Moments earlier, Hough's body hanged on a full-sized crucifix, lifeless and battered, while an emotional audience sniffled and pushed back tears.
While a cast of more than 200 sang, danced and moved toward the stage, four sparkling firework displays descended over the group.
Then - darkness.
It's the second time Faith Family has performed "AD33," but this year, the show's aim was to go even bigger than two years ago, so everyone in attendance felt the power of God and the gravity of Jesus' sacrifice.
"My hope is that people attending this show for the Easter season leave here with a real understanding of what Jesus did," said "AD33" director, Amy Sanchez. "It was probably the same for Mel Gibson when he did 'Passion of the Christ.'"
The almost $20,000 production was performed four times, with two finale shows on Palm Sunday. Monday is the beginning of Passion week, with Easter Sunday ending the Lenten season.
Sanchez said "AD33" isn't a typical Easter performance. It's infused with drama, contemporary song and quality theater, all while providing a historically accurate retelling of Jesus' life.
"God created the arts and everything creative, and this play is the story of Christ that we get to share and spread the good news," Sanchez said about the extravagant show. "We love our community and Faith Family likes to bless them."
Cast members, such as Satan, played by Marcus Perez, were painted in Hollywood-professional body paint. Period-costumed gymnasts from Manning Gymnasts tumbled down the church aisles to the stage. Martial arts students from Victoria Karate Academy, performing as angels and demons, fought against one another with swords and nunchucks, and flipped across the sets.
And Glen Davis, playing an 85-year-old John - also known as Jesus' most beloved disciple - wore gray hair extensions and latex makeup prosthetics to age his face and body.
The production followed John's narration, who flashed back to his life as a younger man and beloved friend of Jesus before his crucifixion in A.D. 33.
"Nothing I was doing up there was made up," an emotional Davis said, peeling away latex makeup prosthetics from his hands. "Hands down, this is the most powerful thing I've been a part of."
Following the Easter production, Faith Family senior pastor, the Rev. Jim Graff, praised the cast for their endurance and talent in the production.
Graff said he hopes the 7,000 viewers of the show left the performance encouraged to know more about Jesus and why Easter is significant.
"For me, I know the gospel is historical and credible, but it's also personal. So I hope others will see this and let it be personal for them," Graff said.