Everyone in America knows and loves the story of Noah, with its flood, its ark and its animals marching in two-by-two. On May 24th the Millennium Theatre in Branson, Missouri, raised the curtain on “Noah—The Musical,” featuring more than 40 actors, along with 75 live animals and 75 animatronic ones. Branson, one of the great musical capitals of America, has no shortage of theatres, but the new Millennium is its largest building and the country’s largest Christian theatre.
The cast, animals and robots included, performs on a 330-foot (100-metre) wrap-around stage in a 339,000-square-foot building. The theatre’s dome, which resembles an ancient temple, can be seen from many points around Branson’s rolling surrounds. The huge complex has its own training facility and indoor zoo for zebras, camels, donkeys, llamas and even skunks. The animals are trained to handle stage lights, applause and music. Some beasts parade down the theatre’s aisles to board the four-story ark.
Branson has more than 50 theatres featuring an array of acts, from old crooners like Andy Williams to Yakov Smirnoff, a Russian comedian. But none is like the Millennium, which is owned by Sight and Sound Theatres in Pennsylvania. The theatre has its own generators so that if local electricity cuts out, the show will go on. Near the stage is a green room for the animals where they will be dressed in their costumes. The musical will run for two years before the company adds new shows, on other biblical themes.
Branson is a logical spot for the spectacle. The town of 7,000 got its touristy start with “The Shepherd of the Hills,” based on a 1907 feel-good novel that brought visitors from around the country to the Ozark mountains. Today the play is America’s longest-running outdoor drama. Tiny Branson manages to attract 7.2million tourists a year and is reachable within a day’s drive by half of the country’s population. Although tourism hasn’t slowed as much in Branson as other parts of the country, that could change because of rising petrol prices. But Branson hopes that Noah and his ark will keep the town afloat during the summer months.
Information & Image courtesy of The Economist