Already seen by 4 million people, Sight & Sound Theaters is bringing its groundbreaking stage production of “Jesus” to the world this Easter in a special live broadcast event. Audiences will get a front row seat to see a life-changing theatrical spectacle that has shaped our world forever.
Specifically, the true live event is one night only, on Friday, April 2nd at 7pm ET, exclusively on Sight-Sound.tv. The live event, being presented from Branson, Missouri, will include a 30-minute pre-show and 20-minute intermission. Additionally, there will be encore performances throughout Easter weekend. Please visit the Sight & Sound website for more details.
I recently spoke with Sight & Sound’s Manager of Communications Katie Miller about this year’s live video streaming event of “Jesus”, what sets their production of the greatest story ever told apart from all the others, and what they are doing to tell it in a uniquely spectacular way.
This will be the second year in a row that you have offered the production of “Jesus” as a TV offering on Easter weekend. What is different about this year’s streaming webcast as compared to last? Sight & Sound chief creative officer Josh Enck has been quoted as saying the production will be shown “in a brand new way”.
There’s a couple of differences. The one that aired last year was a pre-recorded version from a couple of years ago. This year is going to be truly live, which for us, we are passionate about the experience of live theater. The thrill of really watching it unfold in real time. That’s what makes live theater live theater. And so, being able to do it in such a way that it is truly live and it’s a brand new cast. We are broadcasting from our Branson location instead of Lancaster (Pennsylvania). When we filmed “Jesus” several years ago, we filmed it here in Lancaster with the original cast. This is an entirely brand new cast and from our Branson location.
So, it’s like you will be flying without a net in a way.
One-hundred percent. Our event producer, Dean Sell, is our director of brand development. We had someone push back on us after we did the “Queen Esther” live broadcast and say, “We’re not entirely sure that it was really live.” And he laughed and said, “Trust me, my blood pressure went up to prove it.” It was a nail biter all evening. Well, I’m just wanting every single moment to unfold and unfold the way it’s supposed to. It’s live theater. You never quite know. That’s the challenge of it. And so, to do this with a production the size of “Jesus”, is a massive undertaking, but at the same time, it’s what makes it what it is. It’s what makes the audience truly a part of the event in real time.
What sorts of lessons did you learn from the “Queen Esther” live event that will help you with this upcoming live production?
We keep laughing about what a miracle it was that we even pulled that off last year and the amount of time that we pulled it off in. Tor the first time ever we were learning as we go. We were quite literally putting the plane together while it was already in the air for that event. And so, I think this time around, it’s like when you have your second child. It’s an entirely new experience, but you have some things that you kind of have figured out. But at the same time, it’s a different child with a different personality, and a different disposition. That’s the best way I can describe it. That’s how it feels.
And even though our theaters are similar, they’re not exactly the same. Our production teams that are planning the event are here in Lancaster. So we’re trying to plan an event from 1,000 miles away. There’s going to be 27 of us, all traveling out to Branson to pull this off, along with the film crews and everybody else that’ll be meeting us there. So yes, some of the lessons that we learned from the first one (will be in play). This may sound cliché, but one is to just pray, pray, pray. There are so many details that have to come together, and we have Plan B’s, C’s, D’s, E’s, and F’s for every single potential challenge that we could face. So, we’re praying as we are planning. We are recognizing the moments that really need to shine on stage and we are putting a lot of effort into what needs to happen to make those as smooth as possible.
At its core, your production of “Jesus” is a search and rescue story. What types of things do you do in the production to bring these themes to the forefront?
My most favorite part about this show is just the continual storyline of meeting people that we are familiar with and characters from the Bible that we are familiar with. Just getting to see a glimpse of who they were before an encounter with Jesus, and who they became after an encounter with Jesus. And so we see Peter, and we meet Mary Magdalene, James, and John. We meet the blind man. We meet all of these people that we are so familiar with their stories and who they were after they encountered Jesus. And so, the opportunity to highlight their personal journeys, their stories, and get to know the character of who Jesus was through the people He encountered on a daily basis through the storyline thread throughout the entire show is remarkable.
And I think this season specifically that we are in, we all kind of feel like we’re drowning a little bit. I don’t care where you are in the world. I don’t care where you are in our country. Our team had this conversation at the top of the year where we said it doesn’t matter what your life is right now, what position you’re playing in the world, it’s hard. If you’re a stay at home, mom trying to juggle homeschooling kids that you never thought you’d be home schooling, it’s hard. If you’re working from home, it’s hard. If you’re working on the front lines, it’s hard. If you’ve lost your job, it’s hard. This season has been challenging for every single one of us, no matter what our individual story is. And the thing about the Lord is that He meets each of us where we are, and that’s the story of Jesus. He extends his hand out to rescue each of us, no matter where we are and no matter what part of our story we’re in right now.
There have been a great deal of productions, movies, and plays about Jesus over the years. Some good, some … well, not so good. What sets Sight & Sound’s production of the greatest story ever told apart from the others?
I think there’s two things. First of all, it’s just the Sight & Sound experience as a whole. Just the fact that it’s live theater, and that we have live animals. We have a cast of 50 professional actors and massive set pieces. All of those things just create this special experience of course. But I think the thing that stands out the most about the show “Jesus” specifically, is the way that we represent His humanity. He was human and he has such comradery with the disciples. And you see a little bit of his relationship with Mary, his mother, and just that mother-son relationship and how that plays out. You watch Him get angry in the temple and you see that He has this depth of emotional human experience. And I think we, as the church, I’ll say this very broadly, can very much paint this portrait of what we call the “Stained Glass Jesus.” (The feeling of) he’s untouchable, He’s perfect. And He is perfect, but He was perfect, and He was human. And so, He had the broad human experience. And I think the show does a really beautiful job of capturing and portraying that.
Final question, how can people be praying for Sight & Sound going forward over the next few months?
Our hope this year is to be able to open our doors to full capacity safely as the year unfolds. We would covet prayers for wisdom, for discernment to be able to seek the Lord for when that is, when we’re able to experience that full theater. Theater is about people coming together to experience something together. That’s where the beauty happens. That’s where the ministry unfolds for us. It’s been heartbreaking to have these small crowds sometimes of 200 or 300 people. But we want to do it well. We want to be able to have wisdom for when that moment is, when the right time is to fully open our doors and be able to experience our ministry at full capacity again. So, prayers for that and discernment in the process would be so very welcome.
Watch a trailer for Sight & Sound’s live production of Jesus: