SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) – The pandemic stopped many upcoming Easter plans. Still, the creators of the concert oratorio “Lamb of God” decided to put the musical story of the final week of Jesus Christ’s life on film.

For the last 11 years, Rob Gardner’s musical creation has become a favorite for people all around the world. The story is told from the perspective of those around Christ. Including Peter, John, Thomas, Mary, and Martha of Bethany, Mary Magdalene, and Jesus’s mother, Mary.

The new film is a creative dream.

“I’ve dreamed and planned for years to create a concert film of ‘Lamb of God,’ and I am thrilled to bring this new cinematic, can’t miss the experience to long-time fans and newcomers alike,” said creator Rob Gardner. “We brought together a world-class, once-in-a-lifetime cast and crew to create this film. And I am absolutely overjoyed that we can release it in theaters in time for Easter, and help bring light and hope so desperately needed at this time.” 

Producer Rob Moffat and performer Casey Elliott who plays Peter, sat down with ABC4 to talk about taking a loved concert experience and making it into a film.

Moffat says, “I was invited to go to London for the original recording with the London Symphony Orchestra years ago, we were friends from High School. Many people call it an Oratorio…the music feels timeless and grand. It’s become a lot of my history.”

The producer explains, “Rob Gardner’s intent was for it to be a kind of passion play in a way, but to spend more time with these individual characters, who may have been there, and whose words kind of come from a scripture, but are filled out with these lovely lyrics and these melodies, in a way that just humanizes these characters.”

Casey Elliott is known for his music with the musical group Gentri says, “I was just really moved by it when you listen to it from start to finish that’s when you feel the deep arc of it. For me, it builds to a climax when you get to the song Gethsemane…those chords, it just has Christ in them it’s the only way I can describe it.”

Moffat said their goal was to have “Lamb of God” available by Easter this year, they thought if they couldn’t get there, they would wait another year.

He says, “It took quite a bit of research in terms of looking at filming in general and what the CDC guidelines are, well were currently when we were shooting, about how to keep people safe, and how to keep them quarantined, you’ll notice the orchestra is just a little spread out, and a stunning choir that is not quite looking like a choir, they’re just a little spread out. Everyone was masked on set unless they were on camera.”

The film is not exactly the same as the concert experience.

“It does have a couple of new things in it and little one-liners here and there to help us understand who these people are and where they are going.” Moffat explains, “Right now, there’s a brand new song that Casey recorded for us that was written for Peter. Rob originally wrote it with the idea of a live-action film.”

Another difference from the original recording is the scriptural characters tell each other’s stories.

Elliott says he was drawn to Peter’s character because of the way the story is told from each character’s perspective. “I love stories that are told like that…and Peter is just a fascinating person to me…within the same evening Peter pulls out his sword and chops of the ear of some soldier in this mob he’s totally like ready to take this mob on. He’s fearless, and Christ rebukes him and says, you know, don’t you know if I wanted to take care of this I could, I can call down angels and do whatever I needed to put it away Peter, and yet a few hours later, he denies him three times.”

He says they discussed it, and maybe it wasn’t a character defect of Peter’s but a command from Christ, “Thou shalt deny me thrice.” He offers the perspective that maybe Peter had to do something he did not want to do, “that’s beautiful because we all have to do things we just don’t want to do, just kind of life, right? You see that pattern in scripture a lot, where people are commanded to do things, and they are like, uhhhhhh really I have to do it? For me, it opened up a side of Peter I had seen or considered before.”

“I don’t know what it was about this project but I felt a lot of pressure, like a lot of stress. I kind of felt a reverence toward it the whole time, which was cool.”

It is a concert film, and you will not see anyone in costume. The characters are performed. Moffat says “It’s like being behind the scenes of a recording session, the orchestra, the choir, the soloists are all performing at the same time, the audio is not pre-recorded, it’s all recorded at the same time.”

Here’s a look at the the trailer for the Utah made film Lamb of God

One of the important things to all the people involved in creating this film version of Lamb of God was bringing it to people of all faiths to experience the story differently.

“I think we try to avoid interpreting gospel, interpreting scripture, Moffat says, and more invite some space to be left there for people to see themselves in the human relations that maybe Christ might have experienced while he was here. What I find the most beautiful about it is with faith comes doubt and every character in this story experiences it from the deepest degree to the shallowest degree.”

Moffat illustrates an example of one of the most human moments in the show where Mary offers to take Christ’s body. She was willing to move it, to protect it.

Elliott says “If somebody is looking for an experience to feel the spirit of Easter, or maybe somebody who doesn’t believe in Christ, but is curious about the story of Christ, I think there are few things that are better to share than something like this, music has a way of communicating to our spirits and our souls, in a way that words alone can’t.”

“I have no doubt that many will leave the theater being uplifted and feeling closer to what the spirit of Easter is.

“Lamb of God,” the concert film opens in local theaters on March 12th.