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Not The Messiah . . .

Friday 14 December 2007

Hallelujah - Brian has risen and move over Handel! Monty Python superstar Eric Idle and collaborator and celebrated conductor John Du Prez, the duo that unleashed Spamaloton the world, hits Auckland for two nights only with their latest rambling adventure – Not the Messiah (He’s a Very Naughty Boy)

It's a comic oratorio inspired by Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Eric Idle says it's “Shorter than Handel, funnier than Handel, but obviously not as good theologically."

A night of baroque n’ roll on a grand scale, with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, Viva Voce, bagpipers and classical soloists, all hosted by the Python frontman Eric Idle as narrator – a baritone-ish soloist reprising some of his best-loved roles from the film, including Mr Cheeky, a man in the crowd who asked if Mandy is a virgin, and the Lead Singer Crucifixee.

The Not the Messiah show in Auckland is well worth seeing as it's a real mix of musical genres.

Expect pop, Welsh hymns, country and western, doo-wop, hip hop, Broadway, Greek chorus, Idle as Bob Dylan in his mumbling, electric guitar and harmonica phase, Idle beat-boxing to Hail to the Shoe (sung to the tune of the Hallelujah Chorus) and, of course, a raucous final singalong to Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life.

Eric Idle’s told us how he got the idea for the project : “I was encouraged this might work when in 2001 Monty Python was inducted into The Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame and, on behalf of the other guys, I accepted an award presented to me by the inimitable Robin Williams. In my acceptance speech I said I had never really wanted to be a Python, I had always wanted to be….a lumberjack! And suddenly, to enormous cheers, in marched a troupe of scarlet coated Mounties led by John Du Prez to sing The Lumberjack Song with John Mauceri and the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. The audience went wild. So this much we knew: it was fun performing with a large band but how on earth would we fill an entire evening? Surely it needed a central idea, some reason for being there?”

“For a while we toyed with A Monty Python Christmas Singalong in memory of our late pal George Harrison to benefit The Material World Foundation, figuring that if people gathered together for Carols or a Singalong Messiah they might well enjoy singing rude Python songs for a good cause. All the Pythons gladly gave their consent for this to happen, but our lives changed swiftly when in March 2005 Spamalot opened on Broadway to raves and Tonys and a Grammy for John and me. Its success was beyond anything we could possibly have imagined, winning the Tony for Best Musical of the Year and rapidly becoming a Box Office phenomenon. It has subsequently spread around the world like a virus.”

“By the time the Touring Company of Spamalot opened in Toronto my cousin Peter was even more keen we should do something together. After all, we were now commercial, people might even come! But what should it be? Something in my brain clicked. I had always been a fan of The Messiah. If The Messiah is an Oratorio based on the story of Jesus, might it not be possible to do a Not The Messiah Oratorio based on the story of Brian? John thought it a splendid idea, and Peter was enthusiastic, and, more importantly, he felt he could sell it to the Board of The Toronto Symphony Orchestra. But would the Pythons approve? Only one way to find out, so I called them individually and each of them said yes. I didn’t have to use any of the compromising tapes and photographs that I have been carefully compiling all these years. We had their official blessing and that’s how the show was born!”