By Dave Gebroe
I didn’t realize at first, as I walked into the Ricardo Montalban Theater last Wednesday night, that my stomach was clenched in nervous anticipation. What if all this amounted to was an evening of sawdust-coated taxidermy, a lifeless trotting-out of the Python troupe’s greatest hits in a nudge-nudge-wink-wink reminder to purchase the DVDs? Well, I needn’t have worried.
The main drawback of An Evening Without Monty Python, a Monty Python stage revue revisitation co-directed (with B.T. McNicholl) by Eric Idle — fresh off his success with “Spamalot” — is cheekily implanted right there in the title, effectively sideswiping all griping about where the production inevitably falls short. You simply cannot replace Cleese, Chapman, Idle, Palin, Gilliam, and Jones. Theirs was a chemistry that had no precedent, and will never be replicated.
What we have, instead, is a joyous reminder of their prowess as sketch comedy writers: we’re treated to such classic bits as “The Minister of Silly Walks,” “Albatross,” “Nudge Nudge Wink Wink,” “The Spanish Inquisition,” “Dead Parrot” and “The Lumberjack Song.” The cast — Jeff B. Davis, Jane Leeves, Alan Tudyk, Rick Holmes and Jim Piddock, with music directed by John Du Prez — ranges from competent to hysterically funny in parts. And although it never amounts to more than a reminder of how great the original troupe was, you could do far worse than subject yourself to some of the most clever pieces of humor ever dreamt up.
And if you squint here and there, you can almost pretend it’s them.
An Evening Without Monty Python runs at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre in Los Angeles through October 4 and at Town Hall in New York City October 6 – 10.