4 Things You Should Know about Sight & Sound’s Daniel

4 Things You Should Know about Sight &amp; Sound’s <em>Daniel</em>

Daniel is a man of God living in a foreign land, Babylon, where idols fill the landscape.

Fortunately, he has friends who are also strong in their faith: Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. They hold one another accountable. They build each other up.

Unfortunately, though, Daniel and his friends are facing trials unlike any they've ever encountered. They're being asked to consume food that breaks God's law. They're being told to worship a giant golden statue. They're even being prohibited from worshiping the God of their ancestors, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, all under the threat of death.

Daniel dreams of returning to his homeland, Israel, and its majestic city, Jerusalem.

For now, though, he simply hopes to see another day while staying true to his faith.

Will Daniel ever see Jerusalem again?

The story is part of Sight & Sound Theatres' newest production, Daniel, which recounts the inspirational story of the Old Testament exile who faced trial upon trial but never wavered in his beliefs. It debuted at Sight & Sound's Lancaster, Pennslyvania, stage in March.

Here are four things you should know about Daniel:

Photo credit: ©Sight & Sound; used with permission.

Sight and sound Daniel play

1. It's Like Going Back in Time

If you've ever been to a Sight & Sound production or watched one on its streaming platform (Sight-Sound.TV), then you know it is like stepping into a time machine and experiencing the Bible in real life.

The giant wrap-around stage spans 300 feet from side to side. (That's wider than a football field.) The massive sets and colossal LED screens blend seamlessly to transport the audience into an ancient world of towering palaces, bustling marketplaces, serene landscapes, and massive temples. (Daniel and his companions ride a boat down a life-like Babylonian canal in one scene. Later, in the famous scene with the lions in the den, the LED big cats appear as if they're ready to jump into the audience.) The costumes are meticulously designed to capture the essence of each character and era.

Daniel is a high-tech Broadway-style musical experience that immerses you in the biblical world.

Then there are the real-life animals. Camels, horses, sheep, and doves are among the creatures that the audience sees up close.

The show even includes a fire dancer.

More than 1 million people watch a Sight & Sound production in person each year, either in Lancaster or its sister theater in Branson, Mo. (Each theater seats 2,000 people.) The ministry was launched in the 1970s by a farming couple, Glenn and Shirley Eshelman, to introduce audiences to the gospel and bring the Bible to life. The current Lancaster theater opened in the late 1990s, followed by the Branson branch in 2008.

Each show includes an intermission.

Photo credit: ©Sight & Sound; used with permission.

Daniel sight and sound

2. It May Be Sight & Sound's Biggest Production Yet

Daniel took the typical four years to produce but experienced delays during the 2020 pandemic that placed a time crunch on the cast and crew. In terms of spectacle, it's as big as -- if not bigger than -- any Sight & Sound show to date. Past Sight & Sound shows have covered such biblical characters as Moses, Noah, Ruth, Esther, David, and Jesus. (All in total, there have been musicals on 11 Bible figures.) Daniel includes more set movement on stage than any previous production.

"From the beginning, the vision of our team was to unlock the book of Daniel," writer and producer Kristen Brewer said on opening night.

The musical opens with the Babylonians taking the Israelites into captivity and follows with Daniel and his friends weighing their options. Daniel doesn't sugarcoat their dilemma, telling his friends that Israel was taken into captivity because God's people served false idols. Even so, Daniel remains resolute in his faith and prays regularly. When offered Babylonian food, he tells his friends, "If we eat this food, it's the same as worshiping the gods." Soon, he grows strong by eating vegetables, and soon after that, he impresses the Babylonian officials so much that he is given a chance to interpret Nebuchadnezzar's dreams. Here, the production shines, using the LED screens to depict the king's dreams in a way impossible with mere physical sets. The fiery furnace and lion's den scenes are just as impressive.

The musical smartly contrasts the self-worshiping ways of the Babylonians with the loving God of Daniel during an elaborate set piece where the king and his people sing, eerily, "There is no one like Babylon." (A red-eyed dragon, part of a dragon dance, highlights the scene.)

The script does a nice job of simplifying a complicated story.

We're reminded that Daniel worked under three leaders: Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, and Darius the Mede.

We also learn that Daniel was a contemporary of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, each appearing in the musical and singing alongside him. (Ezekiel tells Daniel that God is found not just in Jerusalem but everywhere: "Home is where He is.”)

Photo credit: ©Sight & Sound; used with permission.

Daniel fiery furnace sight and sound

3. It Has Lessons for Today

Perhaps we don't face threats of death for following God's will. Even so, we may face ridicule or ostracization -- no small matter if you're a student or a young adult who is trying to fit into a group. As our world grows more secular, we also may face loss of jobs and income for refusing to abandon God's law.

Sight & Sound's Daniel has lessons for the modern day. Daniel and his friends display courage amidst adversity. They stand firm in their faith, unwavering in their commitment to God's commandments. Daniel shows us how to live a godly life in a pagan culture.

"Babylon is your provider now," an official tells the Israelites.

Daniel, though, refuses to budge.

"Murdoch is not our provider -- God is," he says.

Daniel speaks truth to power. He speaks truth in the face of death. When his friends are tempted to compromise, he reminds them, "We worship Him no matter what."

Brewer told Crosswalk that the biblical story captured her interest. The Old Testament character, she said, didn't seek attention.

"As he walked faithfully through life, the Lord placed him in circumstances where God's light would shine through him," she said.

Photo credit: ©Sight & Sound; used with permission.

Daniel sight and sound

4. It's Gospel-Centric

Sight & Sound founders Glenn and Shirley Eshelman wanted to present the story of Christ in every musical. Daniel continues that trend by weaving the gospel into the final moments as the title character's life is spared from the growling lions. As the audience learns, Jesus was in the den with him, bringing him comfort. (We also see a Jesus figure in the fiery furnace.) 

"The message of the show is that Jesus is King, and He's worth serving," Brewer said.

It's an entertaining, inspiring musical with a ministry-centric message. Days before its public debut, hundreds of Sight & Sound employees gathered in a circle in the theater and prayed that the production would impact audiences for eternity.

Daniel is a family-friendly musical with a powerful, much-needed message for 21st-century Christians.

Entertainment rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Family-friendly rating: 5 out of 5 stars.

Photo credit: ©Sight & Sound; used with permission.

Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist PressChristianity TodayThe Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

4 Things You Should Know about Sight & Sound’s Daniel