One of the hardest aspects of working for Plugged In is having to often say no when asked to review faith-based products. As you might imagine, we receive a lot of e-mails about such things. Plus, companies and individuals snail-mail us all sorts of products they hope we’ll highlight. DVDs. CDs of various CCM artists. Books. Episodes of television shows. Occasionally even video games.
I’m a big believer that well-made, biblically based entertainment can move the needle spiritually. I often point to films such as Jesus, War Room and Risen to make that point. And because I’m such a stalwart supporter of Christian creations, part of me wants to review and bring attention to every single one that comes my way. But I (we) can’t.
Why? Capacity is a major reason. Our small staff here at Plugged In simply doesn’t have the bandwidth to cover everything we’d like. Another is that infamous “cheese” factor. Some faith-based products just aren’t of the quality that we’d like to tell our readers and listeners about.
For both of those reasons, I initially hesitated to talk about Jonah: On Stage, a Fathom Events affair showing in 600 theaters May 2.
It’s not that I knew the production was cheesy. I didn’t know anything about the production (filmed live at the Sight & Sound Millennium Theater in Lancaster, Pa.) at all. I began receiving emails about it months ago and I privately made the decision to pretty much ignore it. Without seeing it, I prejudged this movie-version-of-a-live-performance as something I wouldn’t be interested in, and something that very few in the Plugged In universe would care about either.
I’m hardly anti-live-drama. I’ve seen my fair share of plays over the years, from local theater troupes to dinner playhouse performances to high school/college productions. In my mind, I figured Jonah was probably something like the latter, a decent college dramatic piece if one saw it live, but a bit cheesy as a movie event. Wouldn’t the transitions from scene to scene be clunky?! Plus, the biblical Jonah obviously spent a lot of time in the water. How was a stage production going to do those water scenes? I couldn’t imagine how they’d make it work.
Boy, was I wrong!
So, how did I go from disinterested to writing this blog? I think the primary reason my wife and I eventually chose to view Jonah was the fact that we were looking for something “biblical” for Easter weekend. A lot of us watch Bible-related films around Easter. ABC re-aired The Ten Commandments. UP-TV aired The Passion of the Christ. I noticed that Spanish TV was airing Jesus of Nazareth. As such, Jonah seemed worth our time—for that holy weekend. What I didn’t expect was to really like it!
Jonah: On Stage is not the rainy day equivalent of watching a minor-league baseball team. On the contrary, it’s being behind the plate with the Cubs up to bat in the World Series. The sets are incredibly constructed. The animals (live camels, donkeys, cows) are all well-trained. The transitions were seamless. The music extraordinary. The production is an A+, and it worked as a filmed version (like NBC has done with its live productions of Peter Pan and Sound of Music)! And of course, the story of Jonah is one worth hearing over and over again. I mean, name another time in recorded history in which 120,000 all repented of their sins at the same time and came to the Lord!
In our busy-busy lives, I know we have to prioritize. You may be thinking Jonah isn’t quite your cup of ocean, er tea. I want to go on record that, when it comes to this production, you may be all wet (like I was). In fact, I’ve since found out that for four decades Sight & Sound, the group behind these performances in both Lancaster and Branson, Mo., have been drawing millions each year.
Let’s face it, some of us just can’t get to one of these cities due to cost, time and other factors. But we can all drive to our local multiplex this coming Tuesday night (check your local listings). You’re certain to have a boatload of spiritual themes to reconsider while having a whale of a good time!
Sorry, couldn’t resist.