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‘Messiah’ in Idle hands

'Spamalot' creator announces next project

And now for something not so completely different.

Following on the heels of “Monty Python’s Spamalot,” Eric Idle has announced his next project will be “Not the Messiah (He’s a Very Naughty Boy),” a comic oratorio set to have its world premiere in Toronto in June as part of the city’s inaugural Luminato Festival of the Arts.

Just as Tony-winning tuner “Spamalot” was based on the 1975 film “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” Idle’s new work is loosely adapted from the iconic British troupe’s 1979 pic “Life of Brian.” “Spamalot” co-composer John Du Prez again will collaborate with Idle.

The piece has been commissioned by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, whose music director, Peter Oundjian, is also Idle’s cousin — although the comedian insists that had nothing to do with his decision.

“Who would want to work with their relatives, anyway?” Idle said. “They’re usually unpleasant, dishonest and slow to pick up the check.”

The 63-year-old comic did allow that Oundjian may be an exception to the rule because “he’s got a bit of class, which is something my family has always desperately needed.”

Idle was unwilling to disclose details about the work other than to say, “I promise it will be funnier than Handel, although probably not as good.”

One question, though, is whether it will include “Brian’s” best-known tune: “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life,” already part of “Spamalot.”

Luminato is a new 90-event multidisciplinary arts fest scheduled to run throughout Toronto June 1-10. CEO is Janice Price, who ankled her job at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia to take over the fledging Canadian event.

Other high-profile names whose participation was announced Tuesday include Philip Glass, Leonard Cohen, Atom Egoyan and Isabel Bayrakdarian.

Organizers anticipate half a million people will attend the largely free events of this C$15 million ($13 million) festival, conceived to boost Toronto tourism.

“Spamalot” opened in March 2005 on Broadway, where it recently crossed the $100 million mark in grosses. The show has since spawned a national tour and a production in London’s West End. A sit-down run in Las Vegas will start previews March 8 for a March 31 opening.

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