Today my family and I took the long drive out to Amish country, Lancaster, PA, to see the show “Jesus” at the Sight and Sound Theatre.
The show is a frankly insane attempt to retell the entire Gospel story, up until Pentecost – which, for those who are unaware, actually takes place in “Acts” – , in two and a half hours. With music.
And they succeed. Not only do they succeed, they succeed FLAWLESSLY. There were no pacing or writing issues. Nothing could be cut; nothing needed to be added. The music was beautiful. It was, in a word, incredible.
And I haven’t even mentioned the production values yet. Sight and Sound Theatre is a place people plan vacations around. They are right to do so. The theatre features three stages in a panorama, all of which are used throughout the performance. The sets are works of art. The special effects are an art form in themselves – every scene where Jesus and the Apostles took to their boats was breathtaking.
The music was beautiful. The acting was flawless,. Ultimately, I have two criticisms.
For some weird reason they made the choice to make James and John’s mother a sassy black woman (?). Since James and John were white and almost the entire rest of the cast was white, and also because they were acting at least mostly in character for the period, it felt…strange, to say the least.
The angel who opened Christ’s tomb at the end flew from the rafters in a remarkable special effect, but he was a bearded, balding man who was dressed in a stereotypical white-robe-and-wings angel outfit. It looked a bit like a comedy sketch.
And that’s it. Those are the flaws. Everything else is perfect.
I’m not sure what else there is to say. It was a retelling of the most superversive story of all time and it was marvelous. I was not moved to actual tears in the show but I did tear up more than once, especially in the ways it made me reflect on my own faith. The moment where the Virgin Mary weeps over the dead body of Jesus while in the background a flashback to the Nativity is shown where Mary sings a lullaby to the infant Christ is about as perfect as a scene can get. It is as elegiac and heartbreakingly beautiful as it sounds.
Sight and Sound Theatre only has two locations, so it isn’t fair to call this show a must-see, but I don’t know how else to put it. It’s a masterpiece on every level – writing, acting, music, singing, set, effects…all of it is as close to flawless as anyone will ever get.
Find a way to watch it and I guarantee you will find it worth every bit of effort. It gets my highest possible recommendation.