Sunday, June 3, 2018

NOT THE MESSIAH


Comic oratorio by Eric Idle and John Du Prez
Directed by Ylaria Rogers
Musical Director: Leonard Weiss
National Capital Orchestra
Canberra Choral Society
Llewellyn Hall 2 June 2018

Reviewed by Len Power


Attracting a huge audience of Monty Python fans to the Llewellyn Hall, ‘Not The Messiah’ proved to be a winner for the National Capital Orchestra and the Canberra Choral Society.  Loosely following the plot of the 1979 film ‘Monty Python’s Life Of Brian’, co-creator Eric Idle describes ‘Not The Messiah’ as being ‘modelled on the Messiah by Handel’.

While there are clear musical references to the Messiah, Eric Idle sees it as more ‘Baroque ‘n’ Roll’ with nods to a wide range of musical influences including mariachi music, pop, Welsh hymns, doo-wop and Broadway.  A lot of the fun in watching the show is in picking up on the references.  The sheer craziness of it is a gift for a director with a wild imagination and Ylaria Rogers makes the most of the opportunity.


There wasn’t much spare room on the stage with the huge orchestra, choir, conductor, Leonard Weiss and the five soloists and when everyone was in full flight, the sound was thrilling.  The final song of the first half, ‘You’re The One’ was especially well done, bagpipes and all.

The soloists had a ball with the crazy characters they were playing.  Unfortunately poor sound balance in the first half of the show made the soloists hard to hear once the orchestra played above a certain volume.  Happily, this was corrected for the second half of the show.
Louise Page

Soprano, Louise Page, was hysterically Wagnerian as the stroppy mother of Brian and the other soprano, Demi Smith, had fun as Brian’s fiancĂ© and sang sweetly.

Nick Begbie and Demi Smith

Tenor, Nick Begbie, captured the innocence of Brian very nicely and David Pearson shone with his resonant bass voice and recognizable multiple characterizations, including everyone’s favourite, the Roman centurion, Biggus Dickus.

Nick Begbie and David Pearson as B.D.

Baritone, Tobias Cole, an authority on Handel anyway, proved to know his Monty Python as well with nicely-judged comic playing, a bit of gender-bending and some fine singing.  His ‘I Want To Be A Girl’ was a highlight amongst many.

Tobias Cole

Conductor, Leonard Weiss, did a fine job keeping it all together musically.  There was excellent playing by the orchestra and the Chorus Master, Sarahlouise Owens, achieved precise and clear singing by the choir.  Director, Ylaria Rogers, obtained a nice level of lunacy from everyone, including little touches that you had to be quick to spot.

Leonard Weiss with essential yellow accessory

The show finished with the company and the audience singing ‘Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life’ together.  You just had to be there!

Photos by Peter Hislop

Len Power’s reviews are also broadcast on his ‘On Stage’ performing arts radio program on Mondays and Wednesdays from 3.30pm on Artsound FM 92.7.

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