Messiah is a musical in two acts
Principle roles include: Jesus, Mary Magdalene, John the Baptist, Nicodemus, Judas, Peter, four Pharisees, Pilate, children. In addition, there is a full chorus/crowd/dancers. It can be performed as an oratorio or fully staged in either biblical or modern costume. It runs for under two hours. In the premiere production, three of the Pharisees and Pilate were played by women.
Nicodemus and the Pharisees are important characters in Messiah – they are central to the tense drama played out on stage. The Pharisees' signature song is Lepers and Whores where they poke fun at how Jesus seems to be drawn to those hated in society rather than the so-called ‘chosen’ people whom it is presumed God loves most.’ Nicodemus is there through it all as the one who advocates on Jesus’ behalf. He is an old friend of Jesus’ family and believes in his message.
The musical begins with Nicodemus, introducing the story and outlining the extraordinary life Jesus led.
We first meet Jesus at the sea of Galilee where he engages John the Baptist in an energetic rap conversation; "The prophets say you are the man, who cries aloud, prepare to the crowd. You’ve played your part as God foretold, so see it through, come wash me too."
"I’ll tell you the future – a feature of a preacher – he dies at the end and can never defend what a God in his heaven makes of his possession. Your pathetic short life will end on a sculpture, made smooth by a carpenter, that’s ironic, that’s what you are." (Scene: Battle, a rap battle between Jesus and the Devil in the desert).
The Pharisees sing a drunken ditty mocking Jesus
Oh give me a break, all the lepers and whores can be loved by a God who completely abhors those not from our race, those not from our place - dear Jesus you’ll end up with egg on your face! (Song: Lepers and Whores)