ROME-Pope John Paul II’s extraordinary life is being set to music in Rome, with audiences enjoying a flourish of theatre shows about the former playwright and future saint ahead of his canonisation on Sunday.

Highlights like his famous meeting with his would-be assassin Ali Agca in 1983 and his famous phrase ‘Be not afraid!’ have become modern dance numbers and jaunty tunes in an unusual cocktail of piety and showbiz. Nuns and priests were out in force at a performance of ‘Karol Wojtyla: The True Story’ - one of at least three pope-linked productions in the Eternal City.

Backstage, 26-year-old actor Virgilio Brancaccio donned a cardinal costume and rehearsed his lines as he prepared for his star role as the Polish pontiff. ‘The hardest thing for me was combining his strong charisma with a great gentleness and purity,’ said Brancaccio, who plays Wojtyla as a young man in a plot that ends with his Vatican election in 1978.