Idle himself will star as a “baritonish” soloist in the show, which will be hosted by Michael Palin as Mrs Betty Parkinson and which will also feature other fellow Pythons Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam as well as Carol Cleveland and Neil Innes.
Whereas Spamalot was “lovingly ripped off” from the 1975 film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Not the Messiah is based on the Pythons’ “blasphemous” 1979 film satire Life of Brian and Handel’s 1742 oratorio Messiah. While the latter took its text from the King James Bible, the former caused religious outrage when it was released, spoofing the New Testament with the story of a man, the reluctant revolutionary Brian, who, having been born in the adjacent stable to Jesus, is mistakenly hailed as the messiah and crucified.
The piece is written by Idle and composer John Du Prez, the team behind Spamalot. The score, according to Idle, “ranges in reference from Handel, through a naughty Mozard duet, to the Festival of Nine Carols, Bob Dylan and the classic finale ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’”, which also concludes Spamalot.
The Albert Hall staging will also feature William Ferguson (as Brian), Shannon Mercer (Judith), Rosalind Plowright (Mandy), Christopher Purves (Reg), accompanied by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by John Du Prez.
Billed as a comedic oratorio, Not the Messiah was commissioned by the Toronto Luminato Festival, where it premiered in 2007, with Idle’s cousin Peter Oundjian conducting the Toronto Symphony Orchestra. It was performed later that year in Australia and New Zealand, including two sell-out nights at the Sydney Opera House. Last year, it was performed in Houston, Washington DC (to 7,000 people) and in Los Angeles, with two nights in front of 19,000 people at the Hollywood Bowl.
Monty Python’s Flying Circus first aired on the BBC on 5 October 1969. The TV series, originally broadcast from 1969 to 1974, was conceived, written and performed by John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin and the late Graham Chapman. After the popularity of the television series, the Monty Python juggernaut continued with three films, stage tours, numerous albums, books and a stage musical, as well as wide-ranging showbusiness careers for the individual Pythons.
The Monty Python “Ruby Jubilee” will also be marked with performances of An Evening Without Monty Python in Hollywood and New York, the publication of a new book Monty Python Live! and a new six-part documentary series Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut), scheduled for transmission in October.
After Tony Award-winning success on Broadway, the UK premiere production of Monty Python’s Spamalot ran for two-and-a-half years at the West End’s Palace Theatre, where it closed this past January (See News, 2 Jun 2008). Tickets for Not the Messiah (He\'s a Very Naughty Boy) range from £19.50 to £140.