Above All has reached its end. After four years, hundreds brought to salvation and thousands of lives altered and inspired, the production has come to an end and it's mark has been left. I've already given some personal thoughts on the production in my Podcast. You can check it out here. Today, we take an objective look at Above All and compare it to our first look four years ago.
Less Video More Dynamic Presentation
The video was cut down by about half from the original. While the massive and expansive video was compelling, it tended to drag out. Several spectators that came said that at first they were confused as to whether they would be watching a play or a movie. This year, they replaced the parts of the video they took out with scenes or music/scene presentations. It allowed for a more dynamic flow at the beginning of the production that drew the audience in better.
Moderns with a purpose
In the first year, one of the minor complaints was that the moderns, while compelling, lacked a clear purpose. The implication was there: let's have modern people there that the audience can relate with. However, without a true backstory or idea of who those characters were, it was actually difficult to relate to them.
This year, the purpose of every modern character was clear. There were drug addicts, terminally ill patients and abused individuals. There was a girl who was in a wheel chair who is healed and then her brother is in the next scene trying to wrap his head around it. Each character seemed to have a story that was easy to relate to. We've all faced something like what was presented in the modern characters, whether directly or through a loved one.
Seeing how the use of modern characters has developed over the years has been one of the hallmarks of Above All's commitment to excellence. They took a good idea and made it into a great realization.
Favorite Scene: Last Supper. Not only because it's one with just Christ and His Apostles, but the emotion and depth we go to in that scene was powerful for all of us. It was the main scene we presented at Pearland and its one that has left a mark on me. I'll never take communion the same again.
In my first review, I bragged on the presentation of Come As You Are and the moving feel of I Still Believe. Neither of those songs appear in the final iteration. In fact, this year had almost entirely new music. Even over four years, music changes. The willingness to change the lineup to keep the production fresh and to keep up with the changing style of music made Above All a must watch performance each year.
Favorite Song: No Wonder. It occurs at the end has a wonderful dynamic presentation that includes both moderns, Jews, Romans and Priests. We are all redeemable if we will only come to the cross. Also, it has Christ's resurrection in it, a first for Above All.
Plenty of Conflict
My biggest issue with the first Above All production was the lack of conflict. There was no Temple Cleansing or any other major reason for anyone to turn against Jesus (aside for a few lines in the video and one or two lines in passing). Without a major conflict, it made Christ's arrest and crucifixion seem out of the blue (remember, we've had a lot of people come to Above All who little or nothing about Jesus)
As the year's went on, the Temple Cleansing was added as well as other scenes that kept calling to the idea of Christ's impending suffering. This year, Jesus talked about his crucifixion throughout the production. We were given plenty of conflict both explicitly an implicitly. You could feel the tension build throughout the production to the point where we get to the Garden scene and it is ready to boil over.
Best Effect: During Procession, instead of a scenic backdrop, they give a closeup of Christ's face as he carries the cross. We can see the blood, scars and the crown of thorns as he struggles to carry himself to Golgotha. While it is bloody, it puts the suffering of Christ that we're warned about in the production right in our face. It's a gripping peak to the production.
Changes But the Anointing Remains The Same
No production is perfect, even one as spiritually designed and practically planned out as Above All. However, as the years have gone on, the production has developed and worked through the kinks to put on the best possible presentation of Christ's last Days. It's what kept people coming back year after year, and that set the stage for people to get to the altar and get truly blessed by God. The anointing behind Above All has stayed constant and strong. The moves of God have been powerful and meaningful. People in the cast have made fresh commitments to Christ. Whatever comes next from POA, Above All has left its legacy. It is a legacy of service to God and fulfillment of the Great Commission: To preach the gospel to every creature.
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.