In Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Glenn and Shirley Eshelman had a vision for entertaining audiences with Christian stories, full of Scripture, insight, humor, and music in 1978. They could never have known that Sight & Sound Theatres would grow to two locations, in Lancaster and Branson, Missouri, or that one of their stage productions would arrive in movie theaters as a one-night Fathom Event. And yet, on May 2 (Encore screening: June 3), the eighth show of their Millenium Theatre will make its cinematic debut in theaters in Jonah On Stage.
Jonah, as depicted in the stage/theatrical show, is a man who knows God speaks to him, and is clear on what his purpose is. He’s a prophet called to tell people how they are messing up their lives and need to repent, or to tell people how special they are because they are children of God. But when God calls him to tell the Ninevites that they need to repent or experience condemnation, he’s completely appalled: God’s mercy could never, ever possibly be meant for those incredibly cruel and sinful people, could it?
As readers of the Biblical Scriptures of Jonah will know, there’s a bit of a detour that Jonah takes on his way to Nineveh, including the big fish/whale that mesmerized readers from the moment they interacted with the story of this wayward prophet for the first time. While it would obviously be impossible for a theater audience to suddenly be submerged, the Sight & Sound visuals for the underwater scenes - and the aforementioned big fish - are stunning. Depicted on screen, the magic remains entertaining and breathtaking, cleverly translated from the crew’s imaginations to what the audience sees unfold.
Jonah On Stage presents the visuals that Sight & Sound audiences have come to expect but which can now be seen up close thanks to the screening. Close-ups of Jonah and those he meets allow us to see more of the facial humor that the actors incorporate; a wide view of the big fish allows us to experience its mind-blowing depiction in even greater detail. And for all of the exploration of humor, drama, music, and acting, the heart of the action remains in the way that Jonah’s Biblical story speaks to us timelessly.
“When you run from something, you run to something else, and it is often worse.”
And yet, God’s grace continues to show up.
On May 2, audiences will experience the beauty and grace of Sight & Sound’s depiction of the story in theaters everywhere thanks to Fathom Events.
Update: An encore showing of Jonah On Stage is coming to theaters on June 3rd. Find a theater near you here.