By Jacob Sahms
While Sight & Sound Theatres have been sharing Biblically-inspired musical stories for years, not all of their shows are created equally. Noah stands alone as their flagship show, the one which changed the arc of their efforts in 1995, and led them to this place: Noah is the third Sight & Sound production to be featured nationwide as a Fathom Event, on April 9, 11, and 13.
Communications Director Katie Miller remembers the audience reaction and crew involvement changing remarkably when they first delivered Noah on stage more than twenty years ago. As the show ran for over a year until fire burned down the original theater, and again as they relaunched stages in Lancaster, PA, and Branson, MO, Noah proved that the audience hungered for shows inspired directly from Biblical stories. Moving from a revue-style production with smaller vignettes to a full-length show, Noah also proved to change Sight & Sound’s expectations in set design and animal involvement.
“As Act II opens, the forty-foot sets surround the audience and bring them inside the ark,” Miller explained, describing the twelve different runs of the Noah production. Having seen the show nearly one hundred times, Miller’s view is one of a designer, a fan, and also an observer of the audience reaction. “When all of the animals are coming to the ark at the end of Act I, it’s mind-blowing to watch live or on the screen, as they run down the aisles.”
Using live animals, animatronic animals, and puppet animals, the show has a lighthearted feel that finds parents delighted and children actively pointing out all of the things they see. That’s part of the magic of having at least two of each of the animals represented, with some Biblically represented up to a herd. It helps that the animals are an important part of Sight & Sound’s mission, requiring three times of animal caregivers, but also allowing employees “goat therapy” for bad days, when the animals prove to be more like an extended part of the family.
There’s a kindness there in what Sight & Sound is all about, and in the way that the leaders of each production carry themselves. Not for the first time, a Sight & Sound executive told me that they don’t believe they own the stories; they just want to point people toward Jesus, and the way God is continuing to protect and save those who honor Him.
For an Old Testament production releasing in theaters on the edge of Easter, Noah makes sense as a way to have high entertainment, but also remind people of the gospel.
“The most surprising element is that it’s the story of animals, but it’s also about the destruction of the world and saving those who chose to enter the Ark of Safety,” Miller shared. “It’s the story of love and mercy, of God pursuing His people. The Ark was open to all who chose to enter it, providing a choice everybody had.”
“I don’t think we often think of it as love and mercy, but that’s really the heart of the story. Noah’s family gets frustrated because he gets distracted from the ark building because he wants to pursue the people in the community and get them on the ark. That’s a reflection of God’s love for us, that He’s always pursuing us.”
With Noah, Sight & Sound has done it again: they’ve raised the entertainment bar to great heights, while also exploring the depths of God’s love.