Musical travels storied path from Italy to Bloomington

| Jennifer Janikula | February 13, 2014 | 0 Comments
Patrick Fix, center, of St. Agnes in St. Paul, and Bob Pintozzi, right, of St. Bonaventure in Bloomington rehearse a scene from “Francesco, the Musical” at St. Bonaventure. Fix plays Francesco, the main character, while Pintozzi plays the Sultan. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

Patrick Fix, center, of St. Agnes in St. Paul, and Bob Pintozzi, right, of St. Bonaventure in Bloomington rehearse a scene from “Francesco, the Musical” at St. Bonaventure. Fix plays Francesco, the main character, while Pintozzi plays the Sultan. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

The U.S. premiere of “Francesco, the Musical” will hit the stage for six performances at St. Bonaventure in Bloomington starting Feb. 27. Based on the life of St. Francis of Assisi, the musical shares lessons about gratitude, humility and finding joy, even in struggle.

Originally staged in a custom-built, multi-million dollar theater in Assisi, Italy, in 2000, the musical has a history that includes Barney the Dinosaur, Cirque du Soleil and an Oscar award-winning writer.

“Francesco’s” creator is Richard C. Leach, a Catholic multi-media mogul from Illinois and one of the original creators of the children’s TV program “Barney and Friends.” He envisioned the musical production as a way to share the story of St. Francis and help the people of Assisi after earthquakes destroyed much of the city in 1997.

Leach recruited a talented team to bring St. Francis to life, including Oscar award-winning writer of “Life is Beautiful,” Vincenzo Cerami, and Cirque du Soleil composer Benoit Jutras.

After six months and 180 critically acclaimed performances in Assisi, Leach intended to promote the musical worldwide. Unfortunately, Leach died before he saw “Francesco” tour the globe. Now Leach’s son, Richard Lyons, has taken the reigns.

“Before my father passed away, I promised him I would make ‘Francesco’ a business success,” Lyons said. “I promised that it would survive and self-replicate.”

Lyons appreciates the story of St. Francis and sees the popularity of religious dramas like “The Passion of the Christ” as evidence of a spiritual hunger for faith-based entertainment.

“You can study ‘Francesco’ on paper, but this musical brings him to life right in front of you,” Lyons explained. “His story is relevant in today’s commercial society — he had everything in life and gave it all up.”

‘Francesco’ comes to Bloomington

More than 10 years after the original production in Assisi, Italy, “Francesco” will be restaged by the Heaven Help Us Players, a joint venture between the Bloomington parishes of St. Bonaventure and Nativity of Mary.

Pam Fourniea, the musical’s artistic director from St. Bonaventure, calls the production a “labor of love” that had many small miracles pave its path.

“Miracles, one after another, made this show possible and timely,” Fourniea said. “Everything just came together to help us share this wonderful story of St. Francis.”

Since “Francesco’s” original score was written in Italian, the Heaven Help Us Players needed to translate the entire production into English in order to successfully stage the play. Karen Thompson, director of music and liturgy at St. Bonaventure, was pleasantly surprised to learn that four people in her choir know Italian. Over the course of three months, the team logged 50 hours to complete the translation.

“Some songs really fell into place,” Thompson said. “Others were so difficult because the meter and rhythm were complex. In Italian, it takes 10 syllables to say the same thing that is only five or six syllables in English.”

Thompson looks forward to the end result, which she said is a rich and well researched story of St. Francis that offers relevant lessons for all people.

“St. Francis reminds us that God is present in all things,” Thompson explained. “Everything Francis does is done in joy, even death. He challenges us to be holier and be more for God.”

For more information about the origin of “Francesco, the Musical,” visit http://www.sanfrancesco.us.


Performances

Feb. 27 – March 1, March 8 at 7 p.m.
March 2 and March 9 at 2 p.m.

Ambrose Hall, St. Bonaventure, Door 9
901 E. 90th St., Bloomington

$12 adults | $10 seniors and children
(Family pricing negotiable)

For more information and to order tickets online, visit http://www.nativitybloomington.org and click “Francesco.”

 

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Category: Faith and Culture