Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy)

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Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy) is a comedic oratorio based on Monty Python's Life of Brian. It was written by Python Eric Idle and collaborator John Du Prez, and commissioned by the Luminato festival.

Blu-ray release cover art


With the success of Spamalot, Eric Idle's musical retelling of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Idle announced that he was giving Monty Python's Life of Brian a similar treatment. The oratorio, called Not the Messiah, was commissioned to be part of the Luminato arts festival in June 2007. It was written and scored by Idle and John Du Prez, who also worked with Idle on Spamalot. Not the Messiah is a spoof of Handel's oratorio Messiah. "If our [Life of] Brian was by Matthew then this is by John (but more John Lennon and John Du Prez). In other words, it isn't sketches at all, but recitative and songs and the occasional Nine Carol Service Reader."[1]

The musical style jumps around, and Idle described it as "baroque 'n' roll".[2] It is a pastiche, reflecting pop, Welsh hymns, country and western, doo-wop, hip hop, Broadway, Greek chorus, and Bob Dylan (in his mumbling, electric guitar and harmonica phase, solo-ed by Idle). "Hail to the Shoe" is sung in the style of Handel's Hallelujah Chorus from the Messiah oratorio. The final song is the sing-along "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life", reflecting the British Music Hall tradition, but originally written for the Life of Brian.


The oratorio had its world premiere in an hour-long performance at the Luminato festival in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on 1 June 2007 in Roy Thomson Hall. It received its United States premiere on 1 July at Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts in Katonah, New York, during the International Music Festival. An expanded 90-minute version premiered at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre in Brisbane, Australia, on 5 December 2007.[3] There were also performances of it at the Sydney Opera House, Civic Theatre, Auckland, and Perth Concert Hall during December. On 24 July 2008 a performance was also given at the Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts in Northern Virginia.

At the premiere, Idle performed as a "baritone-ish" soloist and narrator as well as reprising some of his 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 other soloists were Canadian bass-baritone Theodore Baerg, Canadian soprano Shannon Mercer (as Brian's lover Judith), American tenor Christopher Sieber (as Brian) and Canadian mezzo-soprano Jean Stilwell (as Brian's mother). Other active participants were the Toronto Symphony Orchestra (conducted by Idle's cousin Peter Oundjian), members of the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and four stolid and kilted bagpipers in British 19th-century army regalia. (They were members of the 48th Highlanders of Canada Pipes and Drums.)

The Toronto Symphony's involvement was no coincidence. Conductor Peter Oundjian is Idle's first cousin. "We've been talking for a long time," said Idle, "about wouldn't it be fun to do something with an orchestra."[4]


To commemorate the 40th anniversary of the original Monty Python television program, Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam appeared in a remount of the full, 90-minute version of Not the Messiah at the Royal Albert Hall on 23 October 2009. It was produced by Geoff Foulkes and directed by Aubrey Powell. When interviewed about this production, Idle commented: "It is rare you get to be silly on a mass scale."[5] Idle reprised his role, as did Shannon Mercer that of Judith, while the other soloists were William Ferguson as Brian, Rosalind Plowright as Mandy and Christopher Purves as Reg.[6] The cast was backed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus conducted by John du Prez. "You're the One" and "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life" included pipers from the Pipes of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards. The special performance ended with Palin reprising his role as Pontius Pilate from the original movie. Palin segued into a performance of "The Lumberjack Song" accompanied by the other Pythons as well as Python regulars Carol Cleveland and Neil Innes, with former Python collaborator and record producer André Jacquemin and comedian Sanjeev Bhaskar among the chorus of Mounties. Costume design was by longtime Python collaborator Hazel Pethig. It was recorded for television and distribution on DVD, and BBC Radio 3 also broadcast a recording of this performance on New Year's Day 2010.


Introit: Overture

  1. "The Liberty Bell"

Part One: Apocalypso Now

  1. "Chaos and Confusion!"
  2. "There Shall Be Monsters"
  3. "O God You Are So Big"

Part Two: The Boy Next Door

  1. "Mandy's Song"
  2. "Woe Woe Woe!"
  3. "We Love Sheep"
    • A spoof of "And There Were Shepherds" and "All We Like Sheep Have Gone Astray" in Handel's Messiah.
  4. "Spiritual"

Part Three: The Temptation of Brian

  1. "Brian's Dream"
  2. "What Have the Romans Ever Done For Us?"
  3. "The People's Front of Judea"
  4. "I Want to Be a Girl"
  5. "The Market Square"
  6. "You're the One"
    • Orchestra is joined by a quartet of bagpipe players.

Part Four: Baroque and Roll

  1. "Hail to the Shoe!"
    • Spoof of "Hallelujah" from Handel's Messiah, also contains "beatboxing" by Idle.
  2. "Amourdeus"
    • A movement of "choral sex".
  3. "The Chosen One Has Woken!"
  4. "When They Grow Up"
  5. "Take Us Home"
  6. "The Chosen One" (cont.)
  7. "Individuals"
    • Includes a Bob Dylan spoof, complete with harmonica, guitar, sunglasses, and hard-to-hear lyrics.

Part Five: Miserere Loves Company

  1. "Find Your Dream"
  2. "Arrested!"
  3. "A Fair Day's Work"
  4. "The Final Song"
  5. "Always Look on the Bright Side of Life."
    • From the original film, has the audience singing along with the soloists, narrator, orchestra and bagpipe quartet.
  6. Encore "The Lumberjack Song" sung by Michael Palin


  1. Reprise of The Liberty Bell.

DVD release[edit]

DVD and Blu-ray versions of the Royal Albert Hall show were released on 8 June 2010 in the United States, September 2010 in Australia and on 14 June 2010 in the United Kingdom and Germany.


  1. ^ Eric Idle, [Email letter to] "The Pythons," 20 December 2006. Reprinted in Roy Thompson Hall Performance Program Insert, Summer 2007. p. 6.
  2. ^ "Idle's Not The Messiah (He's A Very Naughty Boy) / The Official London Theatre Guide:". Retrieved 1 October 2010.
  3. ^ Eric Idle, introducing the performance 5 December 2007
  4. ^ Robert Cushman, "Not the Messiah," Festival07 Luminato Festival 2007 Program, p. 19
  5. ^ Monty Python stars to stage reunion, 6 July 2009 – The Independent, retrieved 6 July 2009
  6. ^ Not the Messiah, BBC Radio 3 Programmes

Further reading[edit]

  • Robert Cushman, "Not the Messiah (He's a Very Naughty Boy)", Festival07 Luminato Festival 2007 Program, pp. 17–21).
  • "Not the Messiah." Roy Thomson Hall Performance Program Insert, Summer 2007. pp. 5–13.
  • "Not the Messiah." Australia and New Zealand Tour 2007 Program.

External links[edit]