Pope Francis Takes Center Stage in New Filipino Musical

By Peter Blaza 3 December 2014

ANGELES CITY, Philippines — Filipino priests sing and dance in a new musical based on the life of Pope Francis that aims to draw more young people to the church in Asia’s largest Roman Catholic country.

The two-hour musical traces the life of Jorge Mario Bergoglio from his childhood in Argentina to his election in 2013 as the first Latin American pontiff.

The makers of “I (heart sign) Pope Francis” based the mostly English-language musical on news stories and literature about the pope, but add fictional elements to complete the narrative.

Show director Andy Alviz said the performance depicted the challenges as well as rewards of Catholic priesthood, hitting “many birds with one stone.”

“You entertain, you evangelize and at the same time, it’s also a vocation campaign for young audiences who want to become priests or nuns some day,” Alviz said.

The 50-odd cast of amateur actors with day jobs showcases the talents of five real-life priests, including Ric Luzung in the lead role as the pope.

Luzung, a veteran of the stage in community theatre, sings and dances in a musical featuring 24 original songs.

The props used in the show were mostly sourced from Philippine churches, but a white skull cap was imported from the Vatican to match the one worn by Pope Francis.

The musical premieres in Angeles City, about 90 km (56 miles) north of the capital, Manila, on Dec. 12 and will run until January next year.

Pope Francis, the leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, is scheduled to spend five days in the Philippines when he makes his second trip to Asia in January. It was not clear whether he would be able to fit the musical in his itinerary.