Sight & Sound’s “Queen Esther” musical production is a breathtaking and emotionally stirring masterpiece that brings to life one of the most significant stories of the Old Testament.
Currently on stage at the production company’s vast Branson, Missouri theater, it retells the saga of Queen Esther, who risks her life to save her people from genocide.
Metro Voiced interviewed several key actors and staff and share the videos below as part of our “Summer, Faith, and Fun Series.”
It is a stunning combination of storytelling, music, and stagecraft that immerses the audience in a world of ancient Persia brought to life by by Producer and Director, Dan Deal and Assistant Producer/writer Kristen Brewer.
But while the biblical storyline is resonating with audiences, it also has a profound impact on the actors.
“It has grown my faith so much,” Emily Baker, who plays Esther, told Metro Voice. “This role is one that you can’t tell it truthfully and honestly unless it’s true to you as a person.”
Baker told Metro Voice that she gets her peace from knowing she’s not in the driver’s seat. “Learning what it means to be still and trust that God is the one in control is important and that the pressure is off of me,” she says. Baker says being a Christian performer is about telling His story.”
The story of Esther needed a grand stage and production to match the importance of the message. Production values of “Esther” are nothing short of exceptional.
Luke Bates is the technical director and says this is the largest set ever used by a Sight and Sound production and comes in at a whopping 120,000 pounds. “This is a much larger set than any production currently running in the U.S.” he told Metro Voice.
That fact doesn’t go unnoticed by himself or audiences. It took a set of this size and detail to effectively transport audiences back 2,700 years to the height of the Persian Empire.
Bates says that the “wow!” moment for him is when the set opens up and Persia is revealed. That’s followed closely for him personally by the final song dealing with not being alone.
He had a major role in the set design, which wraps around the audience on three sides, is finely detailed, and boasts intricate Persian architecture and a towering palace backdrop.
Audiences are also amazed with the pyrotechnics and projections that are used effectively to create dramatic moments throughout the show.
Bates says that timing is crucial with so much unfolding on stage. “Timing and cuing the actors is repeatedly rehearsed–even up to show time.”
The performances by the cast are outstanding, with each member bringing their character to life with passion and conviction, as evidenced by Baker.
The music is also a standout feature, with powerful vocals by Baker, Dan Culleny (who plays Xerxes), and Jeremy Johnson as Mordecai.
They each add significantly to a moving score that complements the story perfectly.
One of the most impressive aspects of “Esther” is its ability to convey the themes of the story effectively. “Esther” is no doubt, one of the most extensive theatrical productions to ever tour but at its core is the story exploring issues of faith, courage, and sacrifice.
Jeremy Johnson has been in Branson for almost 12 years and portrays Mordecai. He says it’s a challenging role and a heavy story. “The stakes are high for the Jews. Death is around the corner and to deal with that through song and words takes a lot of emotion,” he told Metro Voice.
“It’s easy to relate to Mordecai,” he says. “The story is easy to relate to in the responsibility parents or guardians have for their children. It brings home how I’m raising my own kids.”
Dan Culleny told Metro Voice he hopes his honesty as an actor and Christian comes through in the role.
“Spiritually, it’s a role you cannot tell truthfully if you are not applying all the lessons to yourself in your personal life,” he says. “Like in the powerful songs Emily sings. You can’t fake your way through the spiritual message.”
Culleny says for him, to be still and know He is God is a central message. “God is big and vast and we need to be ready to move when He asks us to.”
Overall, “Sight and Sound’s ‘Esther’ musical production” is a must-see for anyone interested in biblical stories and theatrical performances. The show is a testament to the power of live theatre and the enduring appeal of ancient tales. Even the seating is designed to provide optimal views of the stage, ensuring that every seat in the house is a great one.
As a production produced by Sight and Sound, there’s no better place for such epic stories to come to life on stage.
Asked what a person will walk away with after seeing the production, Baker had some encouragement. “That they are not alone, that God has always been there for them – always will be there and if they want to look for the details they will find them.”
Whatever your summer plans, make “Esther” in Branson a top destination.
Tickets to “Queen Esther” are available at Sight and Sound.
–Dwight Widaman | Metro Voice