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Celebrate Easter with the Mesa Easter Pageant

Photo of Mesa Easter pageant
The story of “Jesus the Christ” is presented by more than 400 costumed cast members with the addition of live animals and special effects on the north lawn of the Mesa Temple, 101 S. LeSueur in downtown Mesa. (Photo/Richard Webb/MesaTemple.org)

2023 Mesa Easter Pageant now underway at Arizona Temple

By Jill Adair | Digital Free Press

The Mesa Easter Pageant is presented on the north lawn of the Mesa Arizona Temple, 101 S. LeSueur, for nine performances from March 29 through April 1, and April 4-8. Each performance begins at 8 p.m.

Come early to secure one of the nearly 10,000 chairs provided. (Photo/Scott Adair/MesaTemple.org)

“Jesus the Christ,” is a 70-minute musical dramatization that highlights the powerful and poignant moments of Jesus’ life from His humble birth to His glorious Resurrection as told in the King James Version of the New Testament. The story is presented by more than 400 costumed cast members with the addition of live animals and special effects.

It is recognized as the largest annual outdoor Easter pageant in the world and draws more than 100,000 people annually to downtown Mesa, according to pageant officials.

A mob demands Jesus be crucified in a scene from the Mesa Easter Pageant. (Photo/Richard Webb/MesaTemple.org)

It’s a very different production from its humble beginnings as a sunrise service in 1938. On that Easter morning, young men and women of the Mesa Maricopa Stake of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints hosted a statewide convention of their peers in Mesa; the culminating event of that festive weekend was an Easter Sunrise Service on the grounds of the temple.

A scene from an Easter Sunrise Service in the 1960s. (Photo/MesaTemple.org)

From that time on, it became an annual event and a beloved community tradition.

The sunrise service continued for nearly 30 years as a choral presentation, featuring sacred music linked with a brief narration focusing on the life of Jesus Christ.

In 1967, a more dramatic production debuted, depicting the story of Jesus with a costumed cast posed in tableaux atop a makeshift stage made of cotton trailers. In 1977, it moved to multiple evening shows prior to Easter.

From there the production has grown over the years in terms of attendance, cast and stage size, and number of volunteers involved in every aspect on the stage and behind the scenes.

A recent hardcover book, “The Mesa Easter Pageant: 80 Years of Sharing the story of Jesus the Christ” chronicles the history with stories and vintage photos.

Shows start at 8 p.m. each evening. Come early to secure one of the 9,200 seats provided.  Local parking is limited. Light rail is recommended.

More info and FAQ: Easter Pageant – MesaTemple.org

Behind-the-scenes documentary debuts online Sunday, April 2

A one-hour video documentary, “Jesus the Christ – Mesa Easter Pageant: Behind the Scenes,” will debut on Utah television station KSL TV on Sunday, April 2, at 11:30 a.m. (AZ time). It will be shown live on KSL.com and on the KSL TV app. Later, it will be available on the KSL YouTube channel.

Easter Pageant Soundtrack available on radio and online for Easter

In addition, Jesus the Christ: Mesa Easter Pageant soundtrack by Rob Gardner will be aired on local radio station KTAR 92.3 FM from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. on Easter Sunday, April 9.

The finale scene of Christ’s resurrection where the actor portraying Jesus is lifted above the 4-story, 10,000-square-foot stage while young people portraying angels rejoice. (Photo/Richard Webb/MesaTemple.org)

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