Book and lyrics by Eric Idle

Music by John Du Prez

Conducted and directed by Ted Sperling

After successfully reinventing Monty Python and The Holy Grail as a Broadway musical (2005’s SPAMALOT), Eric Idle, Britain’s godfather of silliness, is at it again. This time it’s the Python gang’s second, more controversial feature The Life of Brian that provides the source material, and the genre being subverted is the holiday concert event. Thus NOT THE MESSIAH takes on a second meaning (no Handel here). Flanked by “the finest talent currently unemployed on Broadway” (Victoria Clark, William Ferguson, Mark Kudish, and Lauren Worsham) and backed by the Collegiate Chorale and Orchestra of Saint Luke’s, Idle has fashioned a buoyant retelling of the Brian saga that will delight the uninitiated as well as seasoned Python devotees. Ordinary guy Josh Cohen is, indeed, not the savior whose arrival is prophesied in the Old Testament. He simply happens to enter the world in the “wrong place at the wrong time”. Josh’s single mother lives in the house next door to the manger where Jesus is born, and a   group of misguided wise men arrive to bless the wrong baby. Thus begins a series of not -quite-Biblical misadventures. As a young man, Brian falls in love with the revolutionary Judith Iscariot. Mixing with a crowd of anti-Roman activists, Brian finds himself guilty by association.  Running from the authorities, he attempts to avoid detection by posing as one of the crackpot speechmakers in the town square. Much to his own astonishment, a band of disciples takes his blathering seriously and soon Brianites all over Nazareth start proclaiming his divinity. It’s all a bit much for Brian, who has never sought fame – and even less so martyrdom. Composer John Du Prez animates Idle’s ingenious lyrics with a rich array of spot-on pastiches. Musical icons as far-ranging as Mozart, Gilbert and Sullivan, Andrew Lloyd Weber and even Bob Dylan all become the target of affectionate satire. In keeping with the Python aesthetic, the cast and chorale, under Ted Sperling’s ebullient baton, never wink at the audience. Staying in character, they deliver the material with the same commitment as a classical oratorio or Broadway score. There is a limit, given the concert format, to what can be achieved visually. The few sight gags that do occur are choice, but a full-on musical comedy treatment would allow for more pictorial panache. The upside, of course, is that the short-term commitment of a limited engagement allows for a confluence of talent that might not be possible otherwise. It’s well worth the tradeoff. An evening spent with Idle and company is guaranteed to have even the most holiday-hardened New Yorkers remembering to “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”

NOT THE MESSIAH ran for a limited engagement at Carnegie Hall on December 16 & 18.  Soundtrack is available here: For upcoming tour dates, check Eric Idle’s website:

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