The Call of Guadalupe is an inspiring Christian musical production celebrating the value of life, human choices and hope. Created by playwright and Melbourne drama and art lecturer, John Lee, with music composed by composer and cartoonist, Peter Foster, the musical was first staged in Melbourne in 2005. An idea originated with Singapore-based businesswoman Ann Lim, The Call of Guadalupe uses a nonlinear narrative to tell the story of a modern-day Christian family facing decisions about whether to put professional advancement ahead of the needs of the family.

To illustrate the nature of this choice, the musical ‘travels’ back in time and space to the time of the Aztecs—specifically a period in the 15th and early 16th centuries in what is now Mexico—to discuss the value of human life and the importance of our choices, as well as aspects of the Spanish conquest. It goes on to tell the story of the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego, an Aztec convert to Christianity, and of how she asked him to inform Bishop Zumaragga to build a church in Tepeyac Hill. This part of the story brings the musical to a climax, with the centrality of love in Juan Diego’s Christian faith used to illuminate some of the musical’s central themes.

Geraldine Lee is the daughter of John Lee and president of Call of Guadalupe, the Christian-based, not-for-profit community theatre that produces the musical. She recalls the moment when the project first took off. ‘Dad and I had been talking about staging the musical in Melbourne and Sydney for some time before my mother died from cancer in 2003,’ she explains. Geraldine recalled how Our Lady of Guadalupe had been a source of strength and comfort for her mother throughout her illness. 'She inspired us because, whenever we brought the picture of Our Lady of Guadalupe to her in hospital, she would get better. She had said, “You should put on the musical,” this inspired me to move back to Melbourne from Sydney to work closely with my dad, Peter Foster, my brother in law, Patrick Jee, Paula Donahoe and the other founding members of our association to stage the musical at the Besen Centre in Melbourne in 2005.’

Geraldine Lee, president of Call of Guadalupe, artistic director Vance Heredia and his wife Vanessa Heredia.

Since then, the musical has brought a strong sense of Christian community to all who have participated in the productions. Vance Heredia, artistic director of the current production, speaks of the importance of creating a family atmosphere, where all members of the cast thrive: ‘There are people who have come in who seemed emotionally broken at the start—you know, really struggling with confidence.’ Over time, Vance says, ‘You just see them flourish, blossom and fundamentally shift how they come across … They stand straighter, they smile when they walk, when they talk.’ Vanessa Heredia, Vance’s wife, recalls a cast member telling her that he felt he could ‘express his spirituality in the theatre through being backstage, doing the lights and the sound.’

The original production of The Call of Guadalupe ran to nine shows at the Besen Centre in Melbourne in 2005. Since then, the musical has been seen by more than 30,000 people in Australia and the Philippines. This year, it will be staged at Chelsea Town Hall on 24, 25, 26 and 27 November, and will feature more than 40 artists on stage. The overarching message of the musical is to live life to the fullest, trusting in God.

For tickets and booking information for The Call of Guadalupe, go to TryBooking.