RELIGION

Behind the scenes of the world’s largest annual Easter pageant

Mar 26, 2023, 10:20 PM | Updated: Mar 27, 2023, 4:13 pm

MESA, Ariz.— Spectacular pageantry, biblical verse, music, dance, and a cast of hundreds help tell the greatest story ever told on the grounds of the Mesa Arizona Temple.

“This pageant is a part of the fabric of the community because it is the life story of Jesus Christ,” Elder Ronald A. Rasband, Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said. “It lifts everyone when they see it.

“You saw young people, older people, you saw people of different ethnic backgrounds, and everybody coming together,” explained Fr. Andrew McNair, Catholic Diocese of Phoenix.

The soundtrack for “Jesus the Christ: The Mesa Easter Pageant” was composed and produced by Rob Gardner and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and Spire Chorus. It is now available on music streaming services.

London Symphony Orchestra

The soundtrack for “Jesus the Christ: The Mesa Easter Pageant” was composed and produced by Rob Gardner and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra and Spire Chorus. (Courtesy Dan Good)

Gardner’s previous work includes the concert film “Lamb of God.”

“If there’s one thing, I want people to leave this pageant or ‘Lamb of God’ or in life, it’s we’re surrounded by love. We’re surrounded by mercy and there’s no limit to it.”

Gardner received the green light to produce a new soundtrack and script only months before the April debut in 2022.

“We had to figure out everything that we needed by October which we didn’t really even have the whole script until January,” said Stage manager Liz Porter, who also helped her husband Steve Porter with set design.

“Jesus the Christ: The Mesa Easter Pageant” draws crowds over 10,000 each night. (Kary Ann Hoopes) “Jesus the Christ: The Mesa Easter Pageant” draws crowds over 10,000 each night. (Kary Ann Hoopes/Mesa Temple Events) “Jesus the Christ: The Mesa Easter Pageant” draws crowds over 10,000 each night. (Kary Ann Hoopes/Mesa Temple Events) “Jesus the Christ: The Mesa Easter Pageant” draws crowds over 10,000 each night. (Kary Ann Hoopes/Mesa Temple Events) Director Jenee Prince admitted some stress was involved because of the limited time for staging a production seen by over 100,000 people but she had a dedicated cast and crew of 700 people. (Candice Madsen)

Director Jenee Prince admitted a lot of people would probably be stressed about the limited time for staging a production seen by over 100,000 people but she had a dedicated cast and crew of 700 people.

“You look at the love, you look at the sacrifice of all these people and the consecration of all these people and you go, ‘OK, I know I can do this because I trust the people around me.’ I trust everybody working on their own part of this. And that is how this comes together.”

The pageant’s history began in April 1938 as a sunrise service on the grounds of the Mesa Arizona Temple.

“To say it’s a legacy or a tradition in our community really just begins to tell the story it’s something that we set our clocks by,” Mesa Mayor John Giles said. “It has a huge impact on our downtown.”

In 1963 the local TV station KTAR broadcast the sunrise service and it aired in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah.

In 1977 the pageant switched to evening performances and now draws crowds over 10,000 each night. Performances of the Mesa Easter Pageant begin March 29 and run until April 8. “Jesus the Christ Behind the Scenes” airs next Sunday at 12:30 pm on KSL TV, KSL.com, and the KSL TV App.

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Behind the scenes of the world’s largest annual Easter pageant