I’ve got to make yet another confession which may make you track me down and punch my testicles repeatedly, but it ties in with this review so I have to mention it – I really like an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. It’s just the one, I swear, and it’s the ridiculously silly Jesus Christ Superstar which is one of the funniest films I’ve ever seen, with a great number of intentional and unintentionally funny moments. This rock opera from Matt Berry is heavily influenced by that musical, if not story wise than musically, and so it’ll probably come as no surprise that I really loved it though to get the best out of it you really do need to have seen Lloyd Webber’s musical.
It begins with composer Tim Wynde (Matt Berry) informing us that he wrote the musical which supposedly was shown upstairs at the Dublin Castle for several weeks (even though the Dublin Castle doesn’t have an upstairs, Dublin Castle fact fans) and now we’re lucky enough to see a recording of it. It’s all an excuse for Berry to sing a lot and retell the story of Jesus’s birth with Matt Lucas turning up as God, Richard Ayoade as Joseph and Julian Barratt as the inn keeper’s rival, Tony Iscariot.
The story’s told from the viewpoint of the innkeeper (not named Ian Keeper, because they missed a trick there) who Berry just happens to play, with the whole thing set in 1972. The innkeeper owes local hotel owner Tony Iscariot rent and it looks like he’ll have to close the inn down, and his wife Ruth (Julia Davis) is on the verge of cheating on him with Tony, so it’s looking rather grim for the poor old innkeeper who contemplates suicide at one point. His only hope is that the stand up comedian Herod will arrive and save the day by booking out the inn, and so when Joseph finally arrives and wants a room he’s turned down but offered the shed instead.
The songs aren’t particularly hilarious but they are extremely likeable and there are some funny lyrics, “I close the door as only a woman can” and “You foolish man, you’ll rue the day, when you cross Tony, there’s hell to pay” being the ones which stood out for me, it’s a shame that the songs aren’t a bit funnier as this might have been a classic but instead it’s just extremely likeable. And there are a couple of hilarious scenes, at least if you’ve watched Jesus Christ Superstar, with a montage of B&B owners sending up the famous scene where Jesus is shown all of the future portraits that will be made of him being shockingly funny, and Julian Barratt’s seduction techniques are beautifully absurd too.
There’s brief and amusing cameos from Noel Fielding, Lucy Montgomery, Sophie Winkleman, Lydia Fox, Rich Fulcher and Laurence Fox, all of the cast are on top form, the whole thing moves at a brisk pace and the birth of Jesus sees everyone resolve their differences in a nicely daft manner. It’s not perfect and the script could have been a little tighter but I still find myself wishing Berry had been allowed to do one of these every year, taking another tale of Christ and setting it to over the top renditions of various musicals, but like Jesus such a thing sadly doesn’t exist.
You can watch it on youtube here.