A musical about David is the major attraction these days at the Holy Land Experience in Orlando.
BY ELEANOR HENDRICKS MCDANIEL
SPECIAL TO THE FLORIDA COURIER
I recently visited the Holy Land Experience in Orlando. Since it opened in 2001, it had been on my bucket list.
The experience transports you back to early Israel and brings to life the stories of the New and Old Testaments. The setting is a believable portrayal of that time. You pass by humble houses and magnificent ancient Roman structures. But, in Florida theme park style, there is entertainment and fun.
The Holy Land Experience isn’t as large as the Disney parks, Universal Studios or Sea World, but it’s the perfect size for a day’s outing for tourists and families. Kids will delight in the area called Smile of a Child Adventure Land.
The inspirational, Christian-based theme of the Holy Land Experience centers on biblical knowledge, entertainment, historic artifacts and displays. I stopped by the Lazarus House and saw an enjoyable live musical performance. It told the story of Jesus’ visit to Lazarus’ home (while Lazarus was alive). In other buildings, you’ll encounter similar small musical productions.
One of the displays is a hand-built model of ancient Jerusalem, circa 66 AD; it’s the world’s largest indoor model. I walked around the display, marveling at the artistry as I studied the details of houses, palaces, people, flora, fauna, etc.
Don’t miss the Scriptorium (Bible Museum) where you’ll find a priceless collection of venerable Bibles. Some are illuminated Bibles painted by monks in the Middle Ages, and there is a fragment of the important Gutenberg Bible. Others are hand-scribed before the invention of the printing press.
One tome has been created using gold threads. Signage and life-size dioramas, like the room with the Gutenburg press, explain the inspiring history of the Good Book.
Items from modern-day Israel can be found in the gift shop, such as handmade soaps and stone souvenirs.
The big draw
Undeniably, the major attraction at the Holy Land Experience is the musical, “David: King of Jerusalem,” playing at the large theater that seats over 2,000. The musical spectacle tells the story of the life of David. It follows his journey from a simple shepherd boy to the rule of a mighty king.
Because David’s history is so extensive, the production is divided into three separate parts that run about 40 minutes each. I viewed only a 25-minute snippet, which made me want to return for the entire production.
Talented singers belt out the original score (with lyrics from the Book of Psalms), while dressed in dazzling costumes, and acting within the magnificent staging. The show is included in the park’s entrance fee.
Behind the scenes
The production’s creators, Elizabeth and Robert Muren, have been in the business of crafting theatrical musicals based on the Bible for at least 20 years. Their productions have been performed in the United States and abroad.
The Murens have partnered with the Holy Land Experience, which has been their main outlet for two years. Their involvement with the biblical productions includes composing the original music, designing the fabulous costumes, planning and managing the entire venture.
Elizabeth has an international background. She attended Bible College in America, and, at the age of 19, went as an independent missionary to Honduras. There, she taught the art of performing in little musicals to orphaned street kids. Next, she went to Spain to study child psychology.
Being of Cuban and Norwegian heritage, she moved to Norway, where she met Robert, a native Norwegian. He believed in her mission, and joined her ministries after they married. They have lived and worked in several countries, but they now reside in Colorado.
Discount for Floridians
The stars of “David: King of Jerusalem” also have been employees of the Holy Land Experience for a long time. David J. Ortiz, who plays King David as an adult, has performed at the park for two years.
Melody Picon, who has the role of Bathsheba, has worked there for five years.
There is a special offer going on now at the Orlando attraction for Florida residents. Until Sept. 28, tickets for adults are reduced to $40 from the regular fee of $50, and children $28 from $35.
For more information, visit holylandexperience.com.
Eleanor Hendricks McDaniel is a seasoned travel journalist whose travels have taken her throughout the United States, Europe and other countries. She resides in Ormond Beach. Follow her on Twitter: @ellethewriter, Instagram: @eleanor1004, Facebook: Eleanor.hendricks.mcdaniel and her website: flybynighttraveler.com.