Whether you’re into the religious back story of Easter or not, there’s one production that’s a must-see this time of year: Mesa’s “Jesus the Christ” Easter pageant.

It’s billed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, its producer, as the largest annual outdoor Easter pageant in the world. It’s easy to imagine they’re right.

Each night at showtime, a cast of 450 actors — combined with impressive special effects, a four-story stage, and live sheep and a donkey — bring home the wow factor, especially for first-timers.

In fact, more than 1,000 volunteers work on the production each year, including a team of year-round costume designers and a large-animal veterinarian on standby 24 hours per day.

The Mormon church says the play is “written and presented for all faiths, cultures, religions and ages,” and its words are taken from the King James version of the Bible.

Whatever your spiritual leanings, the pageant makes an entertaining and, for some, uplifting experience under the night sky. It’s also a captivating reminder that Easter, for a lot of folks, is about more than chocolate bunnies and jellybeans. And you can’t beat the price for a show of its quality; it’s free.

The largest crowds — up to 12,000 people — turn out on Friday and Saturday nights. Organizers advise arriving at least two hours early to all shows this week to get a parking space. Modest picnics are allowed on the grounds, if you’d like to bring your supper with you.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-6818 or azajac@evtrib.com

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