Pope John Paul II musical goes on stage in Rome

Rehearsal for Don't Be Scared, musical based on the life of Pope John Paul II Rehearsal for Don't Be Scared, musical based on the life of Pope John Paul II

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Elvis Presley, Eva Peron, Buddy Holly have all had one. Now, so too, does Pope John Paul II: a musical dedicated to his life.

Actually entitled Non Abbiate Paura, or Don't Be Scared, this show, like the others, is bustling with show-stopping songs, dance routines and drama.

It is an attempt to cram the 84 years of his life into two hours.

The musical was written by two priests, one who wrote the script, the other who crafted the songs.

Father Joseph Spedicato is the wordsmith.

'Sublime honour'

He says he took his inspiration from the teachings of the Pope and from at least six meetings with him.

"Writing a musical on Pope John Paul II represents the highest, most sublime honour," he says. "He was the Pope who managed to tear down barriers, to reach out to people and who was a pilgrim of the world."

The show voyages from the youth of the then Karol Wojtyla, under Nazi rule in Poland, to his triumphant election as Pontiff, and through his 26 years as head of the Catholic Church.

'Some will criticise'
Actor Simone Sibillano, who plays Pope John Paul II Actor Simone Sibillano, who plays Pope John Paul II

Playing him is the young actor Simone Sibillano.

He does not look like the Pope and it is not meant to be an impersonation, but Simone does feel connected to his subject.

"I am a very spiritual person," he says. "The Pope was very special to young people like myself. The production will be received in many ways. Some will criticise, but some will applaud and all we can do is our best to capture his essence."

Rap music

Eighteen songs cover the many episodes of the Pope's career, though controversial subjects like his views on abortion and contraception are sidestepped.

The spectacular even includes rap music and young women bounding around in gossamer-thin white costumes.

Cast members from Don't Be Scared Cast members from Don't Be Scared

It is deeply respectful and although there are a few artistic licences taken in the name of brevity and clarity, it remains faithful to the story.

But is it just for Catholics?

"Oh no," insists the director Gianluca Ferrato. "It is for men, women, black people, white people, for everyone. This is a universal message."

'Rock star Pope'

There are many Catholics and non-Catholics who believe Pope John Paul II changed the world.

Just remember the three million people who queued for up to 12 hours to pay their respects after his death in 2005.

He's already been described as the rock-star Pope, so popular was he with young people.

Since his death there have been books, films, even T-shirts.

Well, now comes the musical.

The ultimate accolade, perhaps, for someone who left an overwhelmingly positive legacy.

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