New on DVD is JONAH: The Musical, the first filmed version of a Sight & Sound Theatres® biblical stage epic. Filmed live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, this spectacular stage production packs humor, cinematic music, amazing costumes, massive sets—and a breathtaking underwater scene featuring a 40-foot whale with an appetite! In this Q&A, Sight & Sound’s Corporate Communications Manager, Katie Miller, fills us in on what it takes to stage such a monumental show and why it has all been worth it.
What are the challenges of creating a musical stage production around something as epic as the biblical account of Jonah and the whale?
So many Bible stories have key elements that are huge in scope—a giant whale, the Red Sea parting, Samson’s epic collapse of the temple. Creating these effects becomes a challenge for our creative teams—and they love it! The collaboration of our talented employees combined with the integration of cutting-edge technology makes the production of a new show an exciting process!
What all goes into staging something this big?
We have 650 employees between our two locations [Lancaster, Pennsylvania and Branson, Missouri]. Part of what makes Sight & Sound unique is having all the production elements—from initial story concept to final product—right under one roof. Our productions take about three and a half years from the time our Story Team kicks off researching and writing to the final rehearsals and opening day.
Sight & Sound has been bringing the Bible to the stage for 40 years (!). How do you manage to keep the experience fresh for both yourselves and also for an audience that may already know these stories?
The Bible is still the best-selling book of all time, and its stories are so engaging and full of adventure and intrigue. There is nothing more energizing to our creative teams than looking at a significant moment and asking themselves “how are we going to do that?” We are thrilled at the opportunity to take a cherished and known story, and highlight pieces that may be surprising to our audiences.
Having Jonah available to watch at home is amazing, but it gives only a taste of the live theatrical event. What is the normal cycle for one of your live shows? Will Jonah continue to be part of your presentation?
Shows premiere for the first time in Lancaster, then travel to Branson and eventually return back to Lancaster. Our hope is to continue to add new shows into our repertoire while continuing to bring the beloved returning shows back to our stages.
What’s the most exciting part about retelling the account of Jonah through a musical stage production?
Scenes like the giant ship in the epic storm or going underwater and experiencing the whale are always favorites. But more than that, presenting the message of the story in a way that is meaningful and relevant to our guests is what gets us the most excited. When we hear about families coming together for this shared experience and then going home to read the Scriptures for themselves, we couldn’t be more thrilled.