While the other members of Monty Python have drifted in and out of the fold throughout the legendary comedy troupe’s 40 years, Eric Idle has almost single-handedly kept the legacy of Python alive in recent years with his Tony Award winning musical, Spamalot, based on the classic Python film, Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Idle has now come up with another ingenious way to take an existing classic Python property and mold it into another medium.
Not the Messiah, He’s a Very Naughty Boy is a musical interpretation of the Python’s notorious 1978 film, The Life of Brian. However, instead of writing a new musical with dance numbers and show stopping songs, Idle and his musical partner, John Du Prez, present an orchestral concert modeled after Handel’s Messiah. As Handel’s monumental work was based of the life of Christ, Idle and Du Prez’s work is about Brian, the main character from the film who is most definitely not the messiah, nor does he want to be. With Du Prez directing the BBC Orchestra and Chorus and featuring four classically trained singers, plus Idle, Not the Messiah, He’s a Very Naughty Boy on the surface would appear to be a very serious affair. But come on, this is Monty Python.
Indeed, while the music comes across as a heavy orchestral work, the lyrics are just what you would expect from Idle, up to par with everything he’s written for Monty Python, The Rutles, or Broadway. It is not a staid, PBS evening at the pops performance, but 91 minutes is full of life and good humor, including an operatic ode to orgasms. Making things even more enjoyable are the appearances of three of the remaining Pythons, Michael Palin, Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, as well as long time Python supporting cast members, Carol Cleveland and Neil Innes. Palin acts as the narrator, “Betty Palin,” and reprises two of his roles from Life of Brian, including the lisping Pontius Pilate.
All of the songs from the film pop up in this oratorio, plus one other Python classic that closes out the entire concert (I don’t want to ruin it). Overall, this makes for a quick and enjoyable evening if you’re a Python fanatic. It’s quite obvious that the entire orchestra, chorus and main cast are having a blast on stage. Moreover, the Python vets who show up to lend their support to Idle are in good humor and actually seem humbled by the mass applause they receive from the sold audience at Royal Albert Hall (where the performance was recorded).
The DVD includes some excellent features, including sing along tracks for six of the songs. The most interesting featurette is a 30-minute behind the scenes look at how this concert came together and the rehearsals leading up to the big show.