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The (Not So) Great Passion Play

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Some guitar picking with “Jerusalem’s Temple” in the background.


This is one of those blogs I didn’t want to write. I love telling you what’s good and fun and interesting, but I hate it when I have to report on something that disappointed me. Still, I see it as my job to report what I find as I find it.

Great Anticipation

I’ve heard of the Passion Play in Eureka Springs for what amounts to all my life.  People whose opinions I trust have told me that it was one of the most moving things they’d ever seen.  I’d just never managed to see it before and I wasn’t going to miss it this time.

There was a time that the Great Passion Play was one of the hottest tickets in the Ozarks. You ordered your seats months in advance and packed audiences attended night after night.  The world has changed and so has the Ozarks.

Even still, I was surprised at just how small the crowd was – a third full, if that. We didn’t care.  We were there to enjoy the play. As we waited for the performance we tried to guess what each of the locations in “Jerusalem” would be.  We saw the sun set behind the Christ of the Ozarks statue.  We were ready for a good night.

There was some guitar picking and national anthem singing and then signs the play was about to begin. A recorded voice bragged that the sound track was played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra.  That was great, but someone should have turned down the volume.  It overpowered everything else.

The Lazarus scene went pretty well and then Jesus and his crowd erupted into Jerusalem.  This scene really needs some strong direction and new blocking.  I know they don’t want Jesus to stand in a stationary position declaiming his lines, but it was like a game of Where’s Waldo. He’s up, he’s down, he’s left, he’s right. He’s also flopping his hair all over the place.  The frequent hair flopping was so un-Jesus like.  It was very distracting.

The writers also seemed to stuff entirely too many vignettes into the scene in front of the Temple.  It was like they wanted highlights of Jesus’s entire three year career in one scene.  He was healing everything in sight, giving a few Beatitudes and then demanding the children come unto him.  I got dizzy it was moving so fast. My friend was particularly irritated by the children sequence.  She thought it went on too long in the context of the Triumphant Entry.

Then things seemed to improve.  Jesus wasn’t flopping his hair around quite so much and the story seemed to follow the Biblical timeline instead of jumping all over the place.  The music was still too loud, but I was learning to ignore it.  Then I noticed something odd.  The players were gesturing before their lines started.  Lip-syncing!  I wasn’t too upset that they were lip-syncing, just distracted by the premature gesticulations.

The last third of the show is the best part and then it was time to go home.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve done a little research on the internet.  Whispers of financial difficulties and bad blood seem to be a common thread.  I can’t say how sorry I am.  I wanted to be as wowed as some of my friends had been.  I was hoping to experience something really special.  Unfortunately, there’s a lot of churches right here in Dallas that put on this same kind of play at Christmas and Easter and do a much better job of it.  They don’t have the spectacular permanent sets of the Great Passion Play, but they seem to be able to write and block better scenes, control the balance of the sound and have Jesus’s with tamer hair tosses.

So, should you go to the Great Passion Play?  I’d say it’s at least worth the price of admission. It’s not that it was truly awful.  I just expected so much more.

Moving onward and upward, Deb and I had one more day in Eureka Springs.  Come back next weeks for some attractions that did not disappoint.

1 thought on “The (Not So) Great Passion Play”

  1. “Where’s Waldo?” “He’s up He’s down…and the hair tossing?” You are just charming Jane Sadek, I have had my good tummy laugh for the morning! Sal


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