Now that the Pope has officially graced American soil, I can breathe a bit easier following months of coordinating the Pontiff’s holy theatrical itinerary and Behind the Emerald Curtain Tour. While this current Pope’s penchant for motorcycle joyriding and tango dancing have generally overshadowed more obvious pursuits, make no mistake: Pope Francis finds showstopper musicals and family drama in particular, heavenly. I was honored by the Vatican Council for Culture, appointed to design an appropriate program for His Holiness.
It wasn’t real to me, I suppose, until a courier dropped off an international parcel—a box (on loan only) containing the Pope’s favorite musicals all on CDs, some well worn tees (STARLIGHT EXPRESS was unexpected), as well as assorted Playbills and four signed posters, including the LOVE!VALOUR!… with Jason Alexander. I was starting to think I’ve seen His Holiness at the Broadway Flea Market in Shubert Alley.
Anyway, the Pope obviously can’t just rock up at HAMILTON like the Obamas. His security detail is the most intense of any international figure. No one wants anything to happen to the Pope on his or her watch. And to be frank, Broadway was not prepared for the Pontiff’s ravenous contemporary pop musical taste. Tickets were by-and-large already spoken-for and Equity, as anticipated, pooh-poohed additional performances without properly filed paperwork (ahead of the deadline). All in all, we decided to present the Pontiff with a one time only, star-studded performance of a more-or-less unknown show, in concert. But I thought—as I often get messages to this effect—many of you like to hear about the inside track of New York theatre, so I might as well share the final list of show candidates—by vote of the Vatican Council for Culture, myself and my two workhorse assistants, as well as Jennifer Mudd and three Jujamcyns. Here they are, below, in order of least to most votes. Jennifer Mudd’s vote counted twice, but I was not privy to why exactly, when I dropped questions about it casually in a Words With Friends exchange with a member of the Holy See.
10 THE WIZ
Ultimately it was decided better to distance His Holiness from Luther Vandross.
9 AGNES OF GOD
Hear me out. Given his fondness for a hardy drama, and his radical new direction for the Church, I thought it was at least a dark horse worth exploring.
8 NUNCRACKERS: A NUNSENSE CHRISTMAS
I figured this was really getting two doves with one stone, but that Christmas-in-July thing doesn’t translate well in Vatican City, apparently.
Deemed too liberally interpreted, though I did find a writeable disk copy of a Marist College production in the Vatican Online Archive.
6 JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
Some of the Cardinals traveling as aids with Pope Francis were initially intrigued by the recent Vegas-style revival, but in the end, no one could agree on a Mary Magdalene. A late night conversation about Victoria Clark, sources report, led to “strong words” and “espresso”.
5 BOOK OF MORMON
I knew this one would at least make it into the top five. Sadly, unsavory language and references could be uncomfortable for PF.
4 JOSEPH AND THE AMAZING TECHNICOLOR DREAMCOAT
A serious contender as it appeases Catholics while simultaneously shouting out to New York’s large Jewish population.
Kathie Lee Gifford’s show. Look it up. It’s a real thing.
2 LEAP OF FAITH
Ultimately, we lost Raúl Esparza to a national commercial and therefore, the show was vetoed by an anonymous member of the council. It garnered the number two spot regardless, via “write-in votes”.
And the show actually chosen, POPE! AN EPIC MUSICAL, kicking mass and taking confessions. Here’s a link to a synopsis—the show previously ran at NYMTF in July.