‘David’ Premieres at Sight & Sound Theaters

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‘David’ Premieres at Sight & Sound Theaters
By Leah McKelvey

Like a psalm of praise, there is joy at Sight & Sound Theaters as it launches the original musical “David,” which was first performed live on March 12 and will run until December 31. After overcoming what could be described as Goliath-sized obstacles, the company is moving forward with a new season and a fresh new show based on the life of one of the most famous characters of the Old Testament.

In an interview with The Lancaster Patriot, Katie Miller, Sight & Sound’s director of marketing and communications, said that the last several years have been a challenge for everyone, and at Sight & Sound, they had not been sure they could weather the lockdowns or spring back after facing not just a loss of revenue but also rising costs and supply chain issues. Even though the theater had started production on “David” all the way back in 2018, the disruption of the pandemic set things back to square one in a lot of ways. For the production team, it seemed like they had to fight one obstacle after another, and they had originally thought they might have to delay the opening by months or even years.

“The number of challenges that were overcome over the last several years are astounding, to be honest,” said Miller. “It feels like a miracle that we were able to open on time and to sold-out crowds.”

The crowds flocking to see the musical are treated to a spectacular show about the life of David as shepherd, warrior, poet and king. The 2,000-seat theater’s enormous wrap-around stage provides an immersive experience with impressive multi-story sets, live animals, and the cast of more than 70 actors who portray the tale of Israel’s most famous king.

Preparing a script that covers one of the most well-documented biblical accounts was a challenge, of course. The production team had to determine how much they should cover in the musical and what had to be left out. The team, headed by lead writer Jeff Bender, producer Ryan Miller, director Christopher Wert and music composer Gabriel Wilson, chose to focus on the theme of David’s relationship with God and the analogy of God being our Good Shepherd. These guiding principles honed the development of the story and shone through on the stage.

The show also highlights David’s lifestyle of worship and the psalms he wrote, so the producers looked for a skilled composer who came from a worship background. Sight & Sound subcontracted Wilson for the job — a singer-songwriter, composer and record producer who has worked closely with well-known names in the Christian music industry to craft songs that focus on worshiping God. The music that was created for “David” stands out from Sight & Sound’s previous productions, with some songs incorporating upbeat, contemporary elements that evoked genres like rock ‘n’ roll and Bollywood. Other songs focused on the harp, and others were orchestral, but all acknowledged the enduring relevance of the material.

“The Psalms, more than any other piece of literature, has influenced and is still influencing music and culture today, both in the secular and faith-based standpoint,” Katie Miller explained. “So we wanted to be able to bring a little bit of a nod to the contemporary influence that the Psalms still have today, and so there was a lot of intentionality for the music to, yes, of course, to an extent fit and reflect the time period, but we wanted there to be a flair of contemporary feel because they are still very influential and relevant today to the music that we all listen to on a regular basis.”

The worship that was fundamental to David’s life was also represented through his harp. Producer Ryan Miller was particularly passionate about having the character play the harp live on stage. In order to achieve this, Sight & Sound designed a harp in-house, then worked with Marini Made Harps, based in New Holland, to bring the instrument to life and make it effective. Working with the local family business, Katie Miller said, was especially wonderful because Paul Marini, a member of that family, has been a Sight & Sound cast member for about seven years.

Incidentally, Marini is one of the four actors who will be portraying David throughout the run of the show. Since the role of David is crucial and the theater will be staging 11 shows a week over the next nine months, the multiple actors are key to ensuring that all the performances go smoothly. The other three actors are Shane Litchfield, Justin Mazzella and Jacob Cummings. Litchfield is the lead actor portraying David, and he was the first to take the stage to bring the shepherd-turned-king to life. His passion and zeal for the role were paired with a refreshing relatability that is often lacking when people perform biblical characters.

After such a difficult time in the entertainment business, a period riddled with uncertainties for Sight & Sound, the theater is excited to bring this show to the stage. Miller said that they all felt overwhelmed with gratitude for God’s faithfulness. In order to express their thanks, the team felt the need to pass on their blessings and chose to donate 100% of the proceeds of the first show — a sold-out performance — to three different organizations that are providing boots-on-the-ground aid to people in Ukraine. The proceeds were divided between Samaritan’s Purse, World Hope International and Convoy of Hope. The last charitable organization is based in Springfield, Missouri, which is close to Sight & Sound’s Branson theater. That theater launched its new season with “Jesus” on March 5, and all the proceeds from that first show were also donated.

Showtimes, tickets and a trailer for “David” can be found at sight-sound.com.

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