It’s taken 24 seasons, but the Badlands Passion Play recently marked their 150th performance. The afternoon of July 9 saw people take to the hills in Drumheller to the formidable amphitheater where the Passion Play is performed.
Prior to the 4 p.m. show, there was a tailgate party of sorts as the famous Wheatland Band performed under the tent to celebrate a couple 150s: first, the milestone show; secondly, the age of our nation. It’s been a few years since I’ve seen Royal Sproule and Lewis Frere onstage (with Travis Friesen to complete the trio), so it was great to hear some of those Lewis & Royal classics again in person. The Wheatland Band is an experience all to themselves, if you are fortunate enough to bask in their musical brilliance.
Now. Onto the big show; the epic show. As a kid, I recall attending the Black Hills Passion Play in Spearfish, SD (that site has long since been closed after 70 years, and revamped as a music venue), so I had some basis to compare the Badlands version to. Plus, I’ve read the book a few times over.
What makes this passion play so intense is the venue. The acoustics in this amphitheater are incredible and the hills allow performers to interact with their audience in an unique way. The landscape is certainly used to full advantage with cast members appearing all over and around the set.
For a three-hour play, the action is fast-paced, and a lot of Biblical ground is covered. The actors are flawless, and sometimes play multiple roles that require quick costume changes. It was hot enough viewing the play, I could only imagine what it was like to perform in the same heat.
Here are some Passion Play Pointers to help plan your visit:
1. Bring a seat cushion. The seating consists of wooden benches, and after sitting for awhile, I was certainly longing for a pillow!
2. Pack lots of water. Especially with the high temperatures, this is vital! The venue does have a concession if you forget, though.
3. Hat and sunscreen. This goes without saying, an afternoon in the sun simply demands this. And bug spray isn’t a bad idea, however, there weren’t any bugs on our visit.
4. Plan ahead for dinner. We were lucky with our visit, having beat the crowd to Boston Pizza by mere minutes. Drumheller eating establishments can get very busy after a show, I’d recommend making reservations if you want a sit-down meal.