Director Jewels: Visiting Branson with Toddlers: Jonah at Sight & Sound Theatres

Friday, June 27, 2014

Visiting Branson with Toddlers: Jonah at Sight & Sound Theatres

Disclosure: In exchange for my post and to facilitate my honest review of this experience, my family received tickets for this attraction as part of a promotional blogger tour of Branson, MO through US Family Guide. No other compensation was received and all opinions expressed are my own.


I've wanted to visit Sight & Sound Theatre in Branson, Missouri ever since I first heard news of its opening back in 2008. Branson is known as a tourist destination that is full of patriotism and good family values - which is part of the reason I love it so much. Sight & Sound Theatres - which has one other location in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania - states that their purpose is to dramatize scripture through inspirational productions and sow the Word of God into those they reach. I wondered how accurately they would be able to portray any of the well-known stories of the Bible. I've directed a lot of productions, and I have never considered staging something as complicated as Jonah's story. I was so excited to have the opportunity to visit this entirely unique theatre.

At the end of this post, I'll be sharing my Top 4 Tips for Taking Toddlers to Sight & Sound Theatre, so keep reading for that!

My biggest concern? We were given tickets to a 7:30pm show on a day when we had been out exploring Silver Dollar City since the early morning. I feared that my toddlers were going to freak out and make the experience miserable for everyone else. They hadn't been super patient on the Showboat Branson Belle earlier in our trip, but I hoped that a show of this magnitude would keep them entertained.

We arrived just before the curtain went up and thankfully, the kids were really intrigued at first! We were seated fairly close to the center aisle near the front of the auditorium. The stage is 300 feet long and wraps three full sides of the main floor audience. I was truly astounded when Jonah traveled to Joppa and the entire curtained wall to my right opened up to reveal a bustling multi-level cityscape complete with birds flying, merchants shouting, and fog rising off the sea. It takes a lot to impress me in theatre, and I was sold from that moment. The total stage area is 26,550 square feet - one of the largest stages in the country. A behind-the-scenes tour is available to visitors and I sincerely wish we had had the opportunity to take advantage of it! We will definitely be taking the kids on the tour when they are a little older, to allow them the unique opportunity to walk on such a huge stage.

Photo Courtesy of Sight & Sound Theatres

The show started off by introducing the audience to Jonah, his family, and his village. Some small liberties are taken with the Biblical text to further the development of the characters and move the tale along. Overall, I didn't mind as I know the difficulty of bringing to life a Bible story (on a small church scale, anyway). The songs were upbeat and held my kids' attention throughout the first scene easily.

After Jonah receives instructions from God to travel to Ninevah and cry unto them, he runs away and instead finds himself in the city of Joppa. It was around this time in the story that my kids decided they were just done with sitting. In an effort to remove them quickly as to not disturb other patrons, we found a helpful usher, who showed us the way to the Family Room on the highest level of the theatre. This room features a window which allows parents to still view the performance, while enclosed in a sound-proof space so that kids can freak out as much as they desire. Clearly, the designers of this building had wonderful family-friendly intentions when they planned this room. It was such a relief to receive not looks of disgust, but a smile and quick directions to a space where we could hang out while the kids regrouped.

Photo Courtesy of Sight & Sound Theatres

I strongly wish that I had been able to stay in our original seats for the duration of the production. The entire theatre was transformed into the ocean floor when Jonah was swallowed by the huge fish - which appeared to come to life as it actually traveled out through the audience above their heads. I felt like my mouth was gaping over throughout the production. I was truly stunned at some of the effects they managed.

The sets were beyond impressive, featuring 71 different pieces, including a boat that weighs over 30,000 pounds - it's the largest single set piece in Sight & Sound Theatres history! It was truly remarkable to behold! It required additional design work from an outside engineering firm, even though 95% of sets are built in-house at Sight & Sound.

My kids were amazed (even from the Family Room) with the live animals utilized during the production. Sight & Sound productions typically include animal cast members, and Jonah is no exception. The show features 30 live animals, including sheep, highlander cattle, camels, alpacas, horses, llamas, a sheep dog, birds, zebus, and miniature donkeys. It was fun to watch the animals appear and perform their roles as expertly as the human actors!

The high quality of the production was undeniable, and I intend to put Sight & Sound Theatres on our list of must-see attractions for our family whenever we visit Branson. I admit: I will likely wait until Lincoln and Addie are old enough to sit through at least most of a production before I plan our next trip, but I don't want to miss the opportunity for them to see the Bible come to life in such a majestic way.

Top Tips for Taking Toddlers to Sight & Sound Theatres.

1. Don't Worry. Crying is okay- in the Family Room. Don't let your kid cry and disrupt the performance for the other paying guests. That's just not cool in any theatre. But The Family Room is awesome for parents who really want to see the show when their kids can't sit through it. Sight & Sound Theatres has made this experience very family-friendly by not shunning families with young (noisy) kids, but rather providing a safe space for them.

2. Snacks ARE Allowed in the Theatre. There have been many times in my life that a snack for a toddler has completely saved the day. Take advantage of the snack bar and bide some extra time when your child is content.

3. Kids 2 and Under Don't Need a Ticket. When my kids were little babies, we took them to shows all the time and they just slept through them. If your child is like this, don't pay for a ticket because you can just hold them on your lap!

4. There are Fun Freebies on the Website! Head here to find printable activities to get your kids excited about the show before you visit!


You can find out more and purchase tickets to see Jonah here - plus make sure you are following on Facebook and Twitter for all the latest updates! 

Disclosure: In exchange for my post and to facilitate my honest review of this experience, my family received tickets for this attraction as part of a promotional blogger tour of Branson, MO through US Family Guide. No other compensation was received and all opinions expressed are my own. For more info, you can view my Disclosure Policy.

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