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Sight and Sound Theatre in Branson, Missouri
Photo courtesy Sight & Sound Theatres
Do you remember learning about Samson in Sunday School?
Samson with his long hair. A warrior. A super hero.
In love with Delilah...
When I attended the red carpet premiere of Samson at Sight & Sound Theatre in Branson, Missouri, I became reacquainted with a Bible story that I KNOW will resonate with military families. And the telling of the story was the best theater production I have EVER experienced (and I have been to some well-known productions over the years...this tops them all!).
So why does the Bible story of Samson matter to military families?
Upon arrival at the theater, the press group I was with met various members of the Sight & Sound leadership who welcomed us and introduced us to the story and history of Sight & Sound. I was in awe! For 40 years they have been bringing the Bible to life, with over a million people from around the world coming to experience these stories. The storytelling had humble beginnings with a dairy farmer in Pennsylvania showing slides to churches ... to theater ... and then tragedy struck. You can watch the entire story on video here - LINK. (It's a wonderful story!)
Before our tour ~ Sight & Sound Theatre Lobby
The warehouse at the back of the building was impressive. This is where sets from past productions are stored and this is where sets for current and future productions are created.
What just blew my mind was that the size of the warehouse is the same dimensions as Noah's ark! (This was not planned. In fact, when the structure was built, they realized that the building was 15 feet short of the exact size of the ark, so they added the 15 feet.)
The warehouse is huge!
Our tour began in one of the dressing rooms. Samson's wigs were hanging on the wall (in various sizes as Samson grows) and there were multiples because there are two different actors who share the role of Samson. (With 9 shows weekly, that's a good thing.)
Dressing room discovery ~ Did you know that the Israelites and Philistines wear Keens?
Animals play an integral role in Sight & Sound productions.
Various animals of various sizes were used to enhance the story and to help tell the story, animals as large as a camel and as small as a pigeon. The animal handlers introduced us to part of the animal cast, including a came, a horse, and a lama. The camel loves to dance, the horse has been on stage for over 20 years, and the lama does not spit (we're told it's a territorial thing and well, none of us seemed to threaten him on that account). Sight & Sound makes an effort to ensure their animals receive great love and care, offering them regular enrichment and ensuring they are healthy and happy.
My personal introductions with Gunner the camel and Theo the llama.
My mother would have a word or two to say about your messy house. Clothes strewn everywhere. So many clothes! And Samson was lovestruck...
A glimpse of Delilah's home on the set.
Beware...there are animals under that messy bed.
But I'm not going to let the cat out of the bag!
I am excited to tell you about my adventurous behind the scenes tour of the Sight & Sound Theatre and my quick reaction to the thrilling production at the red carpet premiere, but first I want to share with you 3 reasons that military and veteran families should make the trip to Branson to see Samson.
3 reasons that Samson should be seen by military families:
1. Sight & Sound Theatre offers a high value, thrilling, experiential show.
The productions are family friendly (from ages 2 to 102), humorous and entertaining, and interactive. The cast and animals perform on a stage that surrounds 3 sides of the theater and the aisles! Sight & Sound utilizes the latest technology (yes, even the latest military technology) that wowed me many times throughout the show. Top it all off with a staff and cast who cares deeply about their guests.
If you are stationed at Fort Leonard Wood or Whiteman Air Force Base, if you're planning a vacation, or if you're mapping out a PCS military cross country road trip, you and your family will miss out on something AMAZING if you don't include Sight & Sound on your itinerary. (There's also a Sight & Sound Theatre in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for those of you who are stationed in the Northeast.) This is an experience your kids will never forget and a story that will stay with you forever!
Is there a military discount? YES, so be sure to request it! Discount or not, the cost is nominal for the value of the experience of a Sight & Sound Theatres production.
2. There are military parents who, like Samson's mother, Zelaponi, have prayed, "Lord, whatever it takes..." to restore their wayward son or daughter.
I know this resonates with some of you. I have had concerned parents of military write to me at Operation We Are Here. My Army chaplain husband has talked to many a parent whose child is joining the Army or deploying to war...and their child is wayward.
These parents are on their knees praying. Hoping.
It was Zelaponi's cry, "Lord, whatever it takes" to bring her wayward child back that pierced my soul and almost brought me to tears.
For those who are waiting and praying, Samson is a story of hope.
3. Samson, the irredeemable failure, is noted in the "Heroes Hall of Fame" in the Bible!
If you're familiar with Hebrews 11 in the Bible, it's like a "Heroes Hall of Fame". (The term "hero" resonates in our military culture, doesn't it?) When I think of the heroes listed in Hebrews, I think of Noah, Abraham, and Moses, but Samson? I really had no idea that God included Samson on the list. (I was TOTALLY shocked!)
Allow me to give an overview of Samson's life to help you understand this. The Israelites were suffering under the Philistines for 40 years. An angel visits Samson's mother, who is childless, and tells her that she is going to have a son. "No razor may be used on his head, because the boy is to be a Nazirite, set apart to God from birth, and he will begin the deliverance of Israel from the hands of the Philistines." (Judges 13:5 NIV)
So Samson is going to deliver Israel from the Philistines. He has great strength. But...he makes bad choices. Choices that make me raise my eyebrows and think he's not so hero-worthy. His strength and power make him out to be a super hero. But his character? Hmmm...
Samson... an irredeemable failure...
But this is where it gets exciting. While the story of Samson is a story of waywardness and wanderings, it is also a story of restoration and of God using Samson to save his people, the Israelites. And in the end God lists him as a hero in the book of Hebrews. Wow!
For those of us who stumble now and then, and for those of us who have fallen hard, that is good news we all need to hear!
Samson, watch out for those feisty Philistines! Someone is attempting to sever those luscious locks just a moment too early.
Persia plays the exciting role of a fox burning the fields of the Philistines. If you've forgotten the story, Judges 15:4-5 tells the story of Samson catching 300 foxes, tying their tails together with a torch, and lighting the torches on fire to burn the fields of the Philistines. (Loved this part!!)
Samson... the production
Here's where I'm going to be brief. I don't want to spoil anything! But I will say that I have seen a few fancy (well-known) productions in my lifetime, and Samson was BETTER than any show I have ever experienced. It didn't take long to convince my husband that we will be taking our family to a Sight & Sound production.
Sight & Sound Theatre is one of the top three theater destinations in the country.
Well okay... I'll share a few of my favorite scenes from the show:
the angel disappearing in the flames, the pig races, the Philistines running through the hills with (almost) no clothes, the foxes lighting the fields on fire, and Samson carrying the city gates to the hills (seriously). There's so much more!
Let me just say that the show truly is the culmination of 300+ people coming together after a 3 1/2 year process to bring a Bible story to life on stage.