Pope John Paul II, the musical, in Rome
Two priests, two dancers and a team of young actors are bringing John Paul II to the stage this month, with a musical version of the pope's life and work. The musical maps out the key developments in the life of Karol Wojtyla, who led the Catholic Chur- ch from 1978 until his death in 2005, through acting, dance, music and singing. The earliest scenes look at his life as a youth in Poland, when he enjoyed a passion for football, languages and acting, followed by the years under German occupation, when he held down a variety of tough labouring jobs.
Wojtyla entered a seminary not long after the death of his father, the last surviving member of his immediate family, where be began secretly studying to be a priest. The play looks at his later elevation to bishop and cardinal, and the conclave that even- tually made him the first Polish pope in history. It moves on to consider his voyages, speeches, teachings and his role in major international developments, before concluding with his final days, when Catholics travelled to the Vatican from around the world to be near him.
Father Giuseppe Spedicato, a prolific writer, started developing the script the year after John Paul died. "Writing a newspaper article or a book is a fascinating experience because you are also sharing part of your own life," he said in an online state- ment. "But writing a musical about a figure like John Paul II, the pope that changed the world, is an intense, unique and deeply moving experience". Spedicato said he chosen John Paul because he had meant so much to so many people and left such a rich heritage.
"He visited over 300 countries, circling the globe at least 30 times," explained Spedicato. "He met millions of people in order to spread the message of Christ, love and hope". The play is staged by 21 actors, following weeks of casting and rehearsals. The lead role is played by Simone Sibillano, who has starred in a host of other musicals, including Jesus Christ Superstar, the Phantom of the Opera and Robin Hood. Dancers Flavia Astolfi and Caterina Felicioni choreographed the musical, which was directed by actor and director Gianluca Ferrato, who is also one of Italy's top voiceover dubbers. Father Biagio Mandorino, who wrote the music, said he had been overjoyed with the project. "I had been waiting for so long for the opportunity to express through music my deep esteem for the pope, who accompanied me through adolescence, my youth and the 15 years I have spent in the priesthood," he said. An earlier version of the musical ha s been staged in other parts of the country over the last two years but the Rome production has been entirely revamped, with new direction, choreography and cast, as well as chan- ges to the script. Entitled Non Abbiate Paura (Don't Be Scared), it will be staged in Rome's Teatro Italia on June 11 and 12 befo- re embarking on a nationwide tour.