After years of excited anticipation, Sight & Sound Theatres in Branson finally had their chance to officially introduce Queen Esther to audiences earlier this month.

After making its initial debut at the Sight & Sound Theatres in Lancaster, Pennsylvania in 2020, the production of Queen Esther began its journey to Missouri last year as preparations began for the show to open in Branson.

“Set in the opulent yet perilous Persian Empire, Queen Esther is a captivating tale of beauty and bravery,” the synopsis for the production reads. “Esther’s ordinary life changed forever when she was taken through the palace doors, entering a new world of royalty and risk. With a crown on her head and a secret in her heart, can she find the courage to trust in God’s plan and believe that she was made for such a time as this?”

Branson Sight & Sound Theaters General Manager Cynthia Carson explained what it takes in order to execute this show in a flawless fashion.

“It takes hours and hours and hundreds of people to know their part, to know their roles; whether it’s technical, whether it’s artistic putting the sets together to the cast actually performing,” Carson said. “Now here we are, we’re opening up and it is so exciting to go, ‘Whew, we made it.’ This is what we really believe the show is intended to be like and be.”

As the general manager of the theater, Carson shared her proudest moment always arrives on the opening night of any production, including Queen Esther.  

“You hear the audience interacting with the show or even with the funny parts and you see that wonder and that awe in their eyes, that’s when you burst, because you know your team is doing exactly what the show intended to do,” Carson said. “To be real, to come to life for people and so honestly those are just the moments I want to burst with excitement and joy and tears. The teams worked hard and here they did it.”

Since the arrival of the Sight & Sound Theatres in Branson, they have entertained audiences with the stories of Noah, Jonah, Samson, Moses and even Jesus. In comparison to past productions, Carson said there is a challenge when it comes to introducing audiences to a bible character like Queen Esther who is slightly less known.

“This story is so powerful and honestly we know that God’s word in the bible, it’s true for when it was written as it is for today. Nothing changes there,” Carson said. “It’s just our job to be obedient, to put on the show that we believe we’re supposed to put on and then let God actually do the work, so that is how we look at it. It’s our almighty father God’s show, not ours and so I feel like he will help bring the right people here.”                  

As the curtains rise and the set pieces are revealed, audiences are treated to the view of the city of Susa, which covers more than 11,000 square feet of space. To date, the Queen Esther set is the largest ever built for a Sight & Sound show, according to Branson Sight & Sound Technical Director Luke Bates.

“Noah’s wrap-around set is extensive, but it’s only in the second act and only for a portion of the second act. Whereas the (Queen Esther) design team set off right away to make this so you’re living in the city of Susa and so all of that needed to work together,” Bates said. “I still remember hearing from Dan Deal, who is one of the leaders of the design team, before it ever was drawn about wanting it to be almost a storytelling piece like a dollhouse where different pockets open up to tell the story and you always have something new to look at. I think they did that really well.”

As the set pieces for each production are transported from Pennsylvania to Missouri, Bates shared the largest task of the Branson team is to reassemble the set.            

“The planning started a long time ago, but physically starting to install things as early as December and moving through January and into rehearsals in February,” Bates said. “We worked many, many hours. With the version that’s cast from the show existing previously, and having models and also video documentation, it still was no small task. But with the support from the team in Pennsylvania, at one point we had seven people out here from Pennsylvania who had lived this install just to aid in getting it put together.”

Bates added the palace alone, which is nearly 70 feet wide, 41 feet deep, 37 feet wide and weighs more than 50 tons, took approximately just over a week to assemble. Additionally, the palace features 17 axes of motion as it transforms from scene to scene. 

“There’s six spotters for the palace just to make sure it and everyone around it stays safe. Those flaps that open, they’re accurate to a degree of motion,” Bates said. “So if you wanted to go to 84 degrees, it would go to 84 degrees. It’s all very planned and plotted. Like the accounting house, which is the set right next to it, if it’s not in the right position then you can’t take the next cue.”

Throughout the production, audiences will witness various set pieces constantly moving. Bates said for this movement to take place, they utilize both manual and electrical methods. 

“In the design process, they decide whether it’s going to be manual or electronic based on a number of different things. Is it light enough to move manually? Does it need that artistic timing? One example is when Mordecai is up on the second floor and the wall drops down,” Bates said. “That’s a manual move, because of timing and it’s felt in the midst of it. There’s the palace, with how much it weighs, there’s no way it can be manual.”

During the show, audiences are introduced to a number of characters, the main four of which are Queen Esther herself, Mordecai, King Xerxes and Haman. In the Branson production, the role of Mordecai is primarily played by longtime Sight & Sound Actor Jeremy Johnson. After he learned he had been cast as the cousin of Queen Esther, Johnson shared the steps he took to prepare for the role. 

“Anytime I approach a role at Sight & Sound I start with God’s word. I start with the scripture that I know the story backwards and forwards and know the character backwards and forwards,” Johnson said. “I also spend time in prayer, asking God to guide me in giving me insight into who this character is and how I should portray this character. For Mordecai, it was the same process. Spending a lot of time in prayer, both in rehearsal, during the shows and just all of the time.”

The story of Queen Esther includes several extremely serious and dramatic moments, however, there are often some comedic moments throughout the production. Many of those moments are supplied by Johnson himself as Mordecai.

“It’s always enjoyable as an actor to know that you’re bringing laughter and joy to an audience. I as an actor, I just as a person love to laugh, I love humor, I love comedy,” Johnson said. “Especially when you find yourself in a role like Mordecai, which is a very serious role for a majority of the show. When I get those moments of levity and laughter I eat them up. It is a breath of fresh air in those dire circumstances Mordecai finds himself in.”

When the show comes to an end and audiences begin their exit from the theater, Johnson said he hopes they leave with a fresh mindset on their relationship with God.

“More than anything else I hope they have drawn closer to God,” Johnson said. “I hope they’ve been entertained and I hope they’ve enjoyed it. I hope they’ve laughed and I hope they’ve cried, but more than anything else I hope they have drawn closer in their relationship with God and realize how much he loves them and that he has a plan for them if they’ll trust them.”

The runtime for Queen Esther is two hours and 20 minutes. Showtimes vary day to day and week to week, but are offered at either 11:30 a.m., 3:30 p.m. or 7:30 p.m. Ticket prices for audiences members ages 13 and up are $59 Monday through Friday and $64 on Saturday; and $29 for children ages 3 to 12 Monday through Saturday.

The Branson Sight & Sound Theatre is located at 1001 Shepherd of the Hills Expressway in Branson. For additional information including a look at the 2023 performance schedule or to make ticket reservations visit

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