Sight and Sound Theatre in Lancaster promises theatre-goers a performance of biblical proportions. Sight and Sound’s newest show,“Jonah” is a musical so ghastly that it would most definitely offend the gods of theatre.
Sight and Sound’s “Jonah” tells the bible story of a mopey man named Jonah who hears messages from God. When God gives Jonah a message to go to the town of Nineveh and warn the people of the town’s eventual demise, Jonah wants to flee. Jonah eventually listens to God’s message and goes on an adventure that takes him from his small village to a belly of a whale. While this production is meant to mainly be an inspirational evening, the show is so cheesy that even the most dramatic scenes are gut-bustlingly hilarious. For instance, the cloyingly tedious number
“39 Days” has the ensemble of Ninevites counting down to their town’s demise. The clunky lyrics, with the ensemble counting down every day, turns this compelling and dramatic song into a comical mess. The sets and visuals were eye-popping and exciting. The score by the four writers David T Clydesdale, Jim Dellas, Don Harper and Steve
Wilkinson is mainly comprised of ballads with immature and mediocre lyrics. The main anthem of the musical is a song for Jonah called “Arise and Go.” This song is well-sung; however, it’s filled with obvious rhymes and is very repetitive. Certain numbers, including “Jonah on the Run” stop the show dead in its tracks instead of moving the plot along. While the actors certainly put their all into their performances, the book by Jeff Bender is so hokey that even the best actors couldn’t do it justice. Bender’s book, instead of trying to appeal to all audiences, simply hits audiences over the head with obvious messages and cringe-inducing attempts at comedy. Sight and Sound Theatre is known for their extravagant sets and lights. This is the one area where “Jonah” does not massively disappoint. The boat scene for instance near the end of Act One is eye-popping in its sheer scope and detail. The intense lights in this scene as Jonah gets caught in a dangerous storm give a thrilling moment of suspense that is missing from the rest of the piece. The beginning of Act Two also offers a breathtaking moment of puppetry as members of the ensemble carry a giant whale balloon through the audience. Also impressive are the live animals that appear onstage and in the audience. Although the creative elements bring some great moments, they are few and far between. Most of the time, they overwhelm the story instead of adding to it. Although audiences shouldn’t expect groundbreaking pieces of theatre from Sight and Sound, but they should at least be promised quality. In the case of “Jonah”, Sight and Sound fails on this promise. The lazy score and heavy-handed storytelling keep this show from being something special. As an objective piece of theatre, this production fails on almost every level.