The Toronto Passion Play still draws large crowds every year.

'Toronto Passion Play' turns 25

By 
  • March 19, 2016

TORONTO - The Toronto Passion Play is an Easter tradition that has attracted thousands of Christians each year to the Church on the Queensway. This year, the full-scale musical production celebrates its 25th anniversary with a curtain call performance of its latest version.

“This is the last year we’re doing this version,” said Rev. Ed Clements, assistant director and assistant pastor at the Church on the Queensway. “Obviously, Jesus is the central figure of any Easter story, but we thought this was the time, on its 25th anniversary, to put this one to rest and come up with a new vision for next year.”

The Toronto Passion Play is seen through Annas, one of the high priests who condemned Jesus to death. The story adopts the customs and traditions of the time.

“I think even with people who are familiar with the Gospels... there’s a lot of interesting cultural information that they wouldn’t know unless they delved deeper into the first-century culture,” said Arthur Wachnik, director of the worship ministries and productions at Church on the Queensway.

This production is definitely going out with a bang. Wachnik hints this year’s show will have a larger scale with new pyrotechnic elements added to the bigger-than-life production that includes more than 150 singers, dancers, actors, live animals and a full orchestra.

Over the years, the play has attracted large audiences, selling out the 3,200-seat theatre at the church. Clements said in reflecting on the legacy, the goal has always been to share the story of the Christian faith.

The Toronto Passion Play began in 1991 with its first original production. It was reworked in 2008 with the version that has run for eight years.

“We want to make sure it’s a fresh retelling of it,” said Clements. “We want people to invite their friends who might not otherwise come to a church on a regular basis and come and hear the true Gospel message.”

Wachnik said the Toronto Passion Play has touched many people over the years. That is why the production ministry has goneon for so long.

At the end of each show,senior pastor Rev. Billy Richards invites audiences to come forward for those who are interested in learning more about God and Jesus.

“We’ve had many stories of people who don’t know Jesus and they come and they are introduced to Him for the first time,” said Wachnik. “I think it can be a profoundly moving and spiritual experience this show.”

The Toronto Passion Play runs from March 25 to 27 at Church on the Queensway in Etobicoke. Visit cpacentre.org.

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