Dead parrots, cross-dressing lumberjacks and bagpipes may not be considered staple holiday entertainment for some, but then again, very few people are Eric Idle.
A member of the comedy troupe The Monty Pythons and writer of the music, book and lyrics of the Tony Award-winning musical Monty Python’s Spamalot, Idle brought the comedic oration Not the Messiah (He’s a Very Naughty Boy) to Carnegie Hall for a two-night run Dec. 15-16. Read Playbill.com’s interview with Idle here.
Inspired by the Monty Python film “The Life of Brian,” Not the Messiah follows an ordinary young man who is mistaken for the Son of God despite his "less than immaculate conception" and, thus, worshipped and crucified. The work features a libretto by Idle and music by John Du Prez and also featured in performance the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Collegiate Chorale and soloists Idle referred to as “the finest talents apparently unemployed on Broadway” (Victoria Clark, Lauren Worsham, Marc Kudisch and William Ferguson).
The evening served as both a hilarious send-up of just about every form and style of music possible — pop, doo-wop, folk, flamenco, Gilbert and Sullivan, mariachi music and a song by Bob Dylan (Idle gave a fine impression of the singer’s mumbling). The Chorale joined in on the fun, donning hard hats and sombreros, among other jokes. Not the Messiah is unapologetically silly and filled with nonsense, and both the performers and the audience were clearly having a wonderful time. Victoria Clark was extremely amusing as Brian’s not-exactly-virginal mother, Lauren Worsham was both sweet and sexy as Brian’s lover, Kudisch’s booming voice was well-used in the various styles of music, and William Ferguson portrayed Brian’s innocence and naïveté very well.
While some of the lyrics, which heavily referenced previous Python skits or films, flew by — those who had not brushed up on their Python before arriving at Carnegie Hall might have missed a joke or two — the evening was thoroughly amusing and entertaining.