Passion plays sharing the last hours of Jesus’ life have literally been performed all over the world for thousands of years. Chances are good that your own church has presented such presentations during the Easter season. But I doubt that you’ve ever seen anything like The Thorn, which gets a two-night Fathom Events gig in March. The stage show is an incredible presentation that features, believe it or not, swordplay, gymnastics, aerial arts, dancers, jugglers, singers and even breakdancing! And it’s really good! But then again, it should be. These guys have been working on this production for 25 years now.
The story goes like this: John and Sarah Bolin, youth pastors working in Colorado Springs, first created this show as a way to explain to students about their unconditional value to God. Designed as an interactive, relevant retelling of the story of God, The Thorn was initially performed to a small audience of high school students. Today, the show tours across the country and features professional dancers, actors, martial artists, and aerialists from around the world.
“Through sound, dance, and visual arts, The Thorn inspires the God-given creativity within each of us while proclaiming the Gospel. This has led to over 150,000 people making a commitment of faith, with countless stories of people experiencing lives changed from family restoration to freedom from addiction,” says John Bolin.
Over one million people have seen the show over the years. This year, The Thorn live stage show, featuring a large cast of performers, will be presented in 10 different cities in addition to a two-night movie theater presentation held on March 6 and 7, which will be shown in theaters all across the country. While there is nothing like seeing a live production, the film version is also very good having been edited down from hundreds of hours of footage, making it a top-notch presentation.
The Thorn begins with the Apostle John exiled to a small island for preaching the Gospel. It is here that he meets a small boy, a thief, put there as well for stealing from his master. John begins to tell the boy about the beginning of the world, the birth of Jesus, the 12 disciples, the feeding of the 5,000 and the cruxifiction. As John tells his tale, the story is unfolded on stage which was filmed in front of a live audience. The stage comes alive with flames, special effects and impressive lighting. The cirque acts are amazing, if a little too short. The story of Adam and Eve is told with the pair performing an aerial acrobatics act. Some angels perform with ballet moves while others show off their combat skills. Satan is truly menacing sans pointy ears and pitchfork. The music is very good too. There’s a lot to take in during this well-told story and there are some surprises along the way too.
As for the acting, it too is surprisingly good. Many of the characters, including Jesus, do not speak a single word while others, like Pontius Pilate, chew up the scenery. The Apostle John is very charismatic but it is the little boy who nearly steals the show. Some of the credit needs to go to the writers who shied away from writing any eye-rolling “comedy bits” that are often included in church programs. With that said, The Thorn is at its best when it is showing rather than telling. In an effort to explain every last detail, the dialogue between the boy and the old man slows the momentum down to a crawl each time it moves from the action back to focus on the apostle and the boy. While the narration never gets too preachy, it does feel a little heavy-handed at times, but this is just nit-pickiness.
A word to parents, while this production stars a young boy, this isn’t a show for young children. It gets very intense at times. The crucifixion scene will make adults uncomfortable, imagine seeing those images as a child. However, while the crucifixion scene is bloody, it is fairly brief.
The two-day, Fathom Event for The Thorn will be presented at select theaters on March 6 and 7, 2023. Find your closest theater and tickets here.
The live tour of The Thorn stage show will tour to ten different cities throughout the months of March and April including stops in Loveland, CO, Denver CO, Dallas, TX, San Antonio, TX, Houston, TX, Tulsa, OK, Birmingham, AL, Charleston, SC, Tampa, FL and Miami FL. Tickets for those shows can be found here.
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