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story.lead_photo.caption Joseph and Mary hold Jesus in the manger during “The Miracle of Christmas” at Sight & Sound Theatre in Branson.

Everything about the Sight & Sound Theatre in Branson is big -- 2,000 seats, a 300-foot wrap-around stage, life-size set pieces with GPS technology, 650 employees and a herd of animals ranging from parrots to llamas.

But Katie Miller knows it wasn't always that way.


‘The Miracle of Christmas’

WHEN — Through Dec. 30

WHERE — Sight & Sound Theatre in Branson

COST — $19-$45

INFO — 800-377-1277

Miller's grandparents, Glenn and Shirley Eshelman, created the Sight & Sound concept 41 years ago in Lancaster County, Pa. It was a true family business, she remembers, even by the time she was old enough to be involved.

"It was all family -- cousins and aunts and uncles," she says. "We'd be on stage in costumes, then throw on our regular clothes to work in the concession stands and clean the bathrooms, then put our costumes back on for another show. It was such a fun environment! We didn't know any different. We loved it."

Glenn Eshelman was a dairy farmer, Miller recounts, and "through a series of family tragedies, he realized he needed to find another vocation in his late teens. He'd always had an artistic bent, and he used photography and painting to create multimedia [art]. He was peddling paintings out of the back seat of his car on weekends before he started the multimedia show."

The original idea, Miller explains, grew to include singing and dancing, then from revue-style productions to storytelling.

"From the very beginning, all of our shows had a ministry and mission focus," she says, "which solidified into a focus on Bible stories in the mid-1990s. We wanted to bring the Bible to life in epic form.

"We're thrilled to be going into our 10th year in Branson in 2018," she adds. "Branson feels like our home away from home. It's been an honor for us to work alongside the staples that have been part of the community for so long."

"The Miracle of Christmas," on stage through Dec. 30, is one of the longest running Sight & Sound shows, Miller says -- "definitely our classic. It premiered in 1995, but it's changed and adapted throughout the years. It follows Mary's story -- her back-story with her family, the community in Nazareth, the journey to Bethlehem -- because the Christmas story is as much hers as anybody's. We have all of the classic elements we treasure in the Christmas story."

Miller says every aspect of the performance is live -- the singing, the acting, the animals -- except the music, which is recorded "by different symphonies throughout the world," and the baby Jesus. "Child labor laws," she says, "and babies are a little bit unpredictable.

"We have three different actresses that play the role of Mary, just because there's so much singing and it's such an active part," she says. "Most of our lead roles are cast three deep just because of the scope of what the role entails."

The performers on stage are just part of Sight & Sound's "vision to bring the Bible to life through who we are and what we do," press materials say. Miller agrees with the sentiment.

"No matter what part of the theater we are in, it's such a fun and collaborative work experience," she says. "I wake up and can't wait to get to work, to have the opportunity to be a part of something so much bigger than I am, something that has so much meaningful return on it.

"We had a lot of fun doing it [when it was smaller], but it doesn't feel like much less fun now. With the scope of how we have grown, there's always something exciting happening right around the corner."

Next on the Sight & Sound stage in March will be "Sampson," new to Branson, and Miller promises "it will bring the house down -- literally. The temple collapses all around the audience. It will be epic."

As Sight & Sound always is.

NAN What's Up on 12/10/2017

Print Headline: Greatest Story Ever Told

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