Each year as Easter approaches, the Christian musical “The Witness” is performed by the Victory Center and volunteers from a number of local congregations. This year, however, the production is taking to the road to reach other communities.

This musical, which tells the story of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection through the eyes of Peter, was written by Jimmy and Carol Owens in 1978. In 1982, Pastor Ray Gimenez, executive director of the Victory Center Rescue Mission, began presenting “The Witness” and traveled to various churches. Gimenez and the cast visited locations such as Rockford, Ill., and Chicago, offering the musical to interested souls year-round.

About 15 years ago, however, Gimenez decided to hold all performances at his church, Faith Center Church. He thought moving the equipment and cast around to different locations was difficult. Gimenez also found that performing year-round was difficult for many of the cast members and the play ended up being produced with an on-again, off-again status. From then until now, the production has remained in Clinton.

Now, however, the group will be putting on a total of 10 performances spread out between Evangelical Free Church, Ebenezer Reformed Church in Morrison, Ill., Legacy Church in Davenport and Ohnward Fine Arts Center in Maquoketa. Gimenez said the decision to travel was made by the cast and crew during a party following the close of last year’s season.

“And I asked the question whether they wanted to do this primarily in Clinton alone or did they want to travel and it was a unanimous decision by the cast that they wanted to travel and they wanted to perform, if we could, at the Ohnward Fine Arts Theater,” said Gimenez.

While Gimenez said he enjoys the ease of presenting the play only in Clinton, he sees benefits of taking the show on the road. He said over the years, many Clinton residents have seen the musical and may not return for a second time. However, he said many areas may not know the musical.

“I thought, why not expose it to other cities that have never seen ‘The Witness.’ We’ve never been to the Quad-Cities. We’ve never been in Maquoketa. And that’s one of the reasons why we decided to go ahead and travel again,” said Gimenez.

Gimenez said he believes the locations, especially the large stage at Ohnward, will accommodate the choreography and staging of the musical better. Gimenez said the stage at Ohnward will be great for the crucifixion procession. He said in the churches, Jesus comes up the aisle, but people in the pews cannot actually see him well until he reaches their pew. At Ohnward, the procession will come in from the side so people can see the entire scene better.

Gimenez said each location also requires slight adjustments. The day before the opening performance at each location, the cast and crew run through the choreography and staging in that location to get a feel for the space and make any necessary changes.

“It’s primarily because every stage is different, so the choreography and the lining up of the choir and all that changes a little,” said Gimenez.

Due to the extra work required in having the musical travel to the various locations, Gimenez, who has played Peter for years, decided to step off the stage and focus on directing and promoting the musical. He said this has allowed him to step back and make small critiques and improvements to the performances that he never could when he was participating in the play.

Gimenez said the wonderful cast and crew make this musical possible. A total of 45 people from 17 churches volunteer their time for “The Witness.” Gimenez said most of the key roles or main solos, such as Peter, Mary, Judas, and Pilot, have two actors to play them. He said each actor will perform in that role for five out of the 10 shows. Gimenez thinks this is better than simply having an understudy because each person gets to perform in the role for which they have practiced.

Besides having a great cast, Gimenez said the show also has a great crew. Larry Olson once again is acting as music director. Olson is a retired band teacher who directed at Morrison Junior High School for 27 years. Gimenez said Olson and the entire orchestra, have worked really hard to make “The Witness” a great experience.

The proceeds of “The Witness” go toward the operation of the Victory Center, which recently moved into its new location at 505 Ninth Ave. South. This new location will be able to offer as many as 64 homeless men in Clinton a place to stay. The Victory Center also offers programs such as worship services, meal programs and faith-based programs.

Gimenez said besides the financial support this play gives to the Victory Center and its residents, it also give spiritual support. He said 11 of the 45 members of the cast and crew are residents of the Victory Center. Gimenez said he has seen this play positively affect these men’s spiritual lives.

“The story of Jesus is the greatest story that’s ever been told. And to me, the Bible is the most important book on this side of heaven,” said Gimenez. He said now, during the Easter season, is a great time for people to experience this story through “The Witness.”

All showings of “The Witness” held at area churches will be free to the public. A “love offering” will be taken at intermission. Tickets for the performances at Ohnward Fine Arts Center will be $10 for adults and $5 for children and can be purchased at the Victory Center. Gimenez said he hopes people come out to witness this great story.