Manchester, NY June 17, 2019 – Pageant organizers are expecting such large crowds for this year’s Hill Cumorah Pageant, they added an extra performance night and 3,000 spare chairs.
That’s not the only difference for the 82nd show, which opens Thurs., July 11. The show will feature the largest cast ever assembled with dramatic scene changes thanks to a new director.
“We have a great team of people who are going to make magic happen in just a few days,” said Shawnda Moss, the pageant’s first female artistic director. “Because of its scale, I can’t come in and make massive changes without changing everything. My goal is to come in and be a new set of eyes.”
Moss will be working with a cast who is largely new. Typically, the pageant is split evenly between experienced cast members and people new to its choreography, timing and intense rehearsals. This year, however, more than 70% of the cast has never participated in the annual production.
“I am excited to work with so many new cast members who are going to bring such spirit,” Moss said. “I think there’s going to be heart and passion, and the audience will be touched by that.”
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which has hosted the pageant in Western New York annually since 1937, announced in October 2018 that it would end its flagship pageant in 2020 with several others around the country. Immediately, pageant organizers received a flood of applications to both participate in the pageant and from those planning to come see it.
Which leaves pageant organizers and the surrounding communities bracing for July. Ontario and Wayne counties are almost maxed out in available accommodations during the pageant.
“We always realize that this is a big deal,” said Christine Worth, Wayne County director of tourism. “It’s not just Wayne County, but the whole region that benefits. We’re rolling out the red carpet, and we’re ready to welcome the pageant goers. We’re ready to support the pageant for the next couple years and to show off our area. Our communities are always excited to prepare for this.”
The Thursday before opening night has long been a soft opening for the cast and even the community service groups who provide concessions. But this year, that former Thursday dress rehearsal night is opening night. giving the community and visitors to the region nine opportunities, July 11-13 and 16-20, to see the show. While seating has always been provided for about 5,000 with room for more, the seating area will be equipped with 8,000 chairs this year to accommodate crowds.
The Hill Cumorah Pageant evolved from a small production using car headlights to light the stage to a Western New York tradition. With water features, explosions, earthquakes and balls of fire, the Hill Cumorah Pageant is not your average summer event. It’s a must-see, free event that appeals to all ages.
“I hear from so many people who’ve said they’ve always wanted to go but never have,” said Neil Pitts, pageant president. “There is no other experience like this in the Rochester region. We only have two years left, so you will want to come see it.”
The pageant is a theatrical miracle. More than 760 volunteers – many from the Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse regions — are cast into 1,200 roles within hours of arriving. The cast is supported by a volunteer staff of 150. After just six days of rigorous rehearsals, the show opens. Volunteers in the performance and on staff come to Western New York at their own expense from around the world. They do not come to Manchester just to practice their sword fighting skills and to learn dances, or to wear costumes and wigs in the humid New York summer. For these people, this is a time of spiritual renewal in the cradle of their faith. In addition to rehearsals, the cast also squeezes in more than 1,800 hours of volunteer service in Wayne, Ontario and Monroe counties.
Presented annually by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 1937, the pageant is a theatrical representation of scenes from the Bible and the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Performances by the all-volunteer cast are July 11-13 and 16-20 and begin nightly at 9 p.m. There is seating provided for 8,000 guests. Visitors will be able to don retired pageant costumes for photo booth pictures. Food is provided on-site by local service groups. Food tents open at 5 p.m. The Hill Cumorah is located on Highway 21, two miles north of Interstate 90, Exit 43. Parking and admission are free. Headsets are provided for Spanish translation, and American Sign Language interpretation is provided.
For more information about the Hill Cumorah Pageant, call 315-597-5851, go to www.hillcumorah.org or find us on Facebook under “Hill Cumorah Pageant.”