Detroit — “The Living Stations of the Cross,” the dramatization of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, is coming to the Cathedral of the Most Blessed Sacrament for 25 performances, April 1-17.
The cathedral performances will be in addition to the two performances, April 15 and 17, at Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Farmington, where the production is now in its 10th year.
Kelly Nieto, who created the production, calls it “a spiritual wake-up call.”
“You’re left with a profound understanding of Christ’s sacrifice. Christians who have heard the story all their lives, as well as non-believers, can now experience Christ’s Passion in a way like never before. This brings them to the foot of Calvary and immerses them in the sights, sounds and emotions of the most important event in human history,” she says.
Nieto says she based the music and theatrical elements directly on the Gospel of Mark and Pope John Paul II’s version of the Stations of the Cross, and incorporated the communal prayer that is central to traditional Stations of the Cross devotions.
Nieto became a Christian as an adult and converted to Catholicism in 2000. That Lent, she attended her first Stations of the Cross at Our Lady of Sorrows Church. The experience changed her life forever.
“As we were kneeling during the flogging, I felt such horrific spiritual pain,” Nieto says. “I saw a vision of The Living Stations on the altar, and I heard God say ‘this is why you’re here.’ God made sense of my entire life at that moment.”
Nieto, a seasoned performer and Miss America runner-up, is quick to diffuse any praise she gets for the Living Stations: “I know it’s not me. It’s God.”
Many of the lyrics and scenes came to Nieto in dreams, she said. Others, like the opening song “Hosanna” came in quick spurts. During a 40-minute break before meeting songwriter Nick Dalbis of Crossroads Productions in White Lake, Mich., Nieto scratched notes on a McDonald’s napkin. She took those notes to Dalbis, and from there the lively composition took shape.
The cast of the new production at the cathedral includes Christopher Vaught as Jesus, Elizabeth Mihalo as Mary, Nicholas Paul as Peter, James Kolacki as Pontius Pilate, Louis Canter as Judas, and Andy Langland as a singing soldier.
“The audience should be able to actually live the journey from Jerusalem to the tomb,” says Paul, a professional singer and actor who plays Peter. “Believers and non-believers alike have heard the passion read or portrayed on film and television, but to see it with their own eyes should provide testament enough. (Attendees) should walk away with a whole new perspective on why Jesus died for us.”
Canter, who is also associate director of worship for the Archdiocese of Detroit, says playing the role of Judas is difficult, “because it’s so not who I am.”
“It’s a minor role in the context of all the stations, but it’s a major role because it sealed Christ fate and our fate,” he says.
But Canter sees the production of “The Living Stations of the Cross” as an important evangelization effort. “And it fits with Archbishop Allen Vigneron’s theme of ‘Sharing Christ In and Through the Church,’” he adds.
Michigan Catholic reporter Robert Delaney and special writer Pamela A. Zinkosky contributed to this story.