Eric Idle Brings ‘Not The Messiah’ To Carnegie Hall

And now for something completely different.

During a time of year when Handel’s “Messiah” is frequently presented around the world, Eric Idle of Monty Python fame brought “Not The Messiah (He’s a Very Naughty Boy)” to Carnegie Hall, a comedic oratorio based on the movie “The Life of Brian.”

From the opening overture of John Philip Sousa’s “The Liberty Bell” – familiar as the theme of “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” on BBC from 1969-74 – the audience laughed loudly and repeatedly Tuesday night through the second of two shows at the New York City premiere performances.

Photo: The Collegiate Chorale, Erin Baiano/AP
In the comedic oratorio “Not The Messiah (He’s a Very Naughty Boy”) at Carnegie Hall in New York.

“Not the Messiah” tells the story of Brian, born next door to Jesus and mistaken by others as God’s son. There are a mix of musical styles, including rock ‘n’ roll, gospel and a parody of the “Messiah” in a “Hail to the Shoe!” chorus. The closing number is “Always Look On the Bright Side” – sung by Brian in the movie as he was hanging from a crucifix.

There were the seemingly obligatory references to dead parrots and cross-dressing lumberjacks, chorus singers in yellow construction helmets and an appearance by that character from the movie with the lisp. There were jabs at former President George W. Bush and Martha Stewart, with Idle taking delight that for her “cell” once meant more than a mobile telephone.

Music featured four bagpipers marching down the aisles, mariachi and Idle spoofing a mumbling Bob Dylan. Singing stuffed sheep ambled onstage during the “We Love Sheep!” chorus.

Co-written by Idle and John Du Prez, who helped compose “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” the oratorio premiered in 2007 in Toronto and was divided in five parts over 80 minutes, not including intermission.

Idle, listed in the program as “Baritone-ish” in his role as the singing narrator, was joined by tenor William Ferguson as the bewildered and beleaguered Brian.

Mezzo-soprano Victoria Clark sang Brian’s kvetching mother Mandy; soprano Lauren Worsham was Brian’s sweet-voiced and wide-eyed girlfriend Judith; and bass Marc Kudisch as Brian’s buddy Reg, who famously asks: “What have the Romans ever done for us?”

Ted Sperling, who like Clark won a Tony Award for “The Light in the Piazza,” conducted the Orchestra of St. Luke’s and The Collegiate Chorale.