Nov. 23--Live and animatronic animals, majestic flying angels suspended from stage rigging and a cast of 55 actors are all part of an ancient biblical dramatic narrative presented with stunning special effects on spectacular sets filling a 300-foot wrap-around stage in a 2,000-plus-seat theater.
That's about all there is to it.
It's the "Miracle of Christmas."
For the 16th year, Sight and Sound Theatre in Lancaster will mount the popular holiday show with expanded choreography and a soaring musical score.
The show recounts the journey of Mary and Joseph and the miraculous birth of Jesus based on the accounts found in the Gospels of Matthew, Luke and Mark.
"For any given year, we usually attract about 250,000 people to the show," said Josh Enck, 37, of Lancaster, chief creative officer and co-president of Sight and Sound, which also has a theater in Branson, Mo.
Enck said the show, which opened Friday and will run until Dec. 30, premiered in 1996 and has run periodically at the Lancaster theater.
"I was actually involved in the first 'Miracle' in 1996," said Enck, who said the show attracts a loyal audience, many of whom are families who attend the holiday spectacle as a yearly tradition.
Enck, who began working at Sight and Sound at the age of 19 shortly after graduating from Manheim Central High School and then working at a lumber yard, has worked in almost all capacities at the theater. He has been an actor, stage technician and even trainer for some of the real animals, particularly the horses, that appear on stage.
"At first, I really didn't expect to be here as long as I've been," Enck said.
Describing the production as an awesome experience for the audience, Enck said the show attracts a real melting pot of denominations as well as those who are not regular churchgoers. Enck, who attended a Methodist church when he was growing up, is married and has three children.
"I came from a strong moral family, but I now attend a nondenominational Bible church in Lancaster," he said. "I was born again around the age of 18 or 19 -- and I wasn't coming from a bad place -- I was just seeking truth and light, and I came to believe that if you believe in the heart of Jesus as Lord, you will be saved.
"For me, it was a complete transformation. I kept it simple. I stick with what the Bible says and what it teaches me."
At this stage of his involvement with the nondenominational Sight and Sound ministry, Enck said he is mostly involved with the creative storytelling process as executive producer of the show.
He is clear on why he believes the Christmas story remains popular, especially when it is presented in such a spectacular fashion:
"I believe many people are searching for consistent, authentic and unshakable truths," he said. "Families are also looking for strong, moral entertainment that is safe for their children to see. And they are looking for a place that doesn't compromise biblical truths while still entertaining patrons of all ages."
While a spectacle may wow an audience, Enck said he believes people are always drawn to dramatic storytelling and strong acting.
"There always will be a fascination with the stories of the Bible simply because you are dealing with ordinary people chosen to do extraordinary things that's all wrapped in a magnificent message of hope that's changed lives for thousands of years," Enck said.
Enck said he has been passionate about storytelling since he was 12 years old and his parents gave him a video camera for Christmas.
"I just didn't stop making movies with my buddies all throughout high school," he said.
But Enck now faces an even bigger challenge than the "Miracle of Christmas," as Sight and Sound plans to launch an even more elaborate show, "Moses," in March.
"I will be directing this one, and this is our biggest production ever," Enck said. 'You can just imagine, we are presenting the parting of the Red Sea, the 10 Commandments, the plagues and all the drama that surrounds the story of a very dynamic and complex man."
Enck said it usually takes three years and millions of dollars to mount a new show such as "Moses."
"We employ a total of 600 people in Lancaster and Branson, so it's really a collaborative effort with all of our shows, but it's certainly a team effort with a show of this size," Enck said.
"Moses" will debut on March 9 and will run a full year, he said.
"We already sold 300,000 tickets for that show -- and that's a record," Enck said.
Contact Bruce R. Posten: 610-317-5059 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
(c)2013 the Reading Eagle (Reading, Pa.)
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