Of all the things to spoof, Handel’s Messiah is probably one of the toughest. Between its (literally) sacred subject and reputation as a larger-than-life production, it takes a certain level of fearlessness. NOT THE MESSIAH (HE’S A VERY NAUGHTY BOY), written by Eric Idle and John Du Prez, takes the classic Monty Python film Life of Brian, adds an orchestra, a chorus, and a selection of soloists to create a comic oratorio like no other.
Bootless Artworks has chosen this off-kilter, and more than a little challenging, production for its fundraiser, with more than 50 artists from area institutions such as New Ark Chorale, OperaDelaware, the Newark Symphony, First State Symphonic, and the UD Orchestra (just to name a few) volunteering their time and talents.
As an oratorio, NOT THE MESSIAH is set up like a concert rather than a stage play. The 20-piece orchestra, 20+ member chorus, five soloists and music director James W. Fuerst just manage to fit on the small stage at the Downs’ Cultural Arts Center at Ingleside Retirement Apartments in Cool Spring. A bit more breathing room would be nice, but the musicians (including bagpiper Charlie Rutan) and singers come together to create a classic work of comedy, delivered in the styles of opera, doo wop, gospel, operatic rock, and classic rock — mostly, the show skews classical, juxtaposed with usually-naughty Monty Python comedy.
Soloists includes Justin Walsh, in the Eric Idle role of Narrator; Geoff Bruen, as the mistaken Messiah Brian; Mezzo-Soprano Cynthia Ballentine as Brian’s single mom Mandy; Soprano Kimberly Christie as Brian’s girlfriend Judith; and Michael Popovsky as several Baritone characters. Act I builds to a climax with “You’re the One,” a definite highlight. Act II is packed with memorable moments, including an unintelligible Bob Dylan spoof, choral sex, and, of course, “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.”
Like Life of Brian, NOT THE MESSIAH is not for the easily offended. For fans of the classic British comedy troupe (who just happen to be reuniting in London this year), you get to see a performance of this don’t-miss show put on by terrific local talent, and raise funds for the arts at the same time.
NOT THE MESSIAH runs for just two nights, January 31st and February 1st. Ticket price includes refreshments at intermission. All proceeds benefit Bootless Stageworks.
NOT THE MESSIAH (HE’S A VERY NAUGHTY BOY)
by Eric Idle and John Du Prez
Music Director: James W. Fuerst
January 31-February 1, 2014
Downs’ Cultural Arts Center
Ingleside Retirement Apartments
1005 N. Franklin St.
Wilmington, DE 19806