The "Glory of Easter," the Crystal Cathedral's Passion play spectacular, begins its third run tonight at the glass edifice in Garden Grove.

The production chronicles the days of Christ, from Palm Sunday through the Ascension. Billed as the world's largest annual Easter Passion play, the "Glory of Easter" employs a cast that includes more than 400 volunteers and a menagerie of live animals, including peacocks, rams, goats, donkeys and exotic cats.

The play's action will be punctuated with a variety of special effects, including lightning bursting from atop the 12-story cathedral, flying angels, an earthquake and, in the production's closing scene, the Ascension of the resurrected Christ. A special stage, 300 feet long and two stories high, has been built for the production. Musical accompaniment will be provided by the facility's 14,000-pipe Hazel Wright organ.

Stage and television actor Robert Reed will portray King Herod through March 16. A veteran of 70 stage productions, Reed said in a telephone interview that the sheer scale and elaborate special effects of the "Glory of Easter" make it a new experience for him.

"Certainly, nothing I've done compares with this," Reed remarked. "It's been very interesting, I must say."

Reed had never visited the cathedral before his work in the "Glory of Easter."

"My mind, for a cathedral, had been conditioned for a more Gothic approach," said Reed, who added that he finds the facility "unusual, different, exciting."

"Certainly, it has all the physical facilities required for a great theatrical production," said the actor, who recently appeared in the play "Doubles" in New York.

Louis Dezeran will replace Reed as Herod after March 16 for the remainder of the "Glory of Easter" run, through April 5. Playing Jesus will be Miles Herter, in a return engagement.

The "Glory of Easter" is directed by Michael Robert Coleman and Conwell S. Worthington.

Performance times for the play are 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. daily except Monday. A special 10:30 p.m. performance is scheduled for Good Friday. Tickets are $18 and $14. For information, call (714) 54-GLORY.

The Crystal Cathedral, 12141 Lewis St., was founded by the Rev. Robert Schuller as part of the Reformed Church in America. The cathedral also presents the annual "Glory of Christmas--A Living Nativity."

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