By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
Cineplex Front Row Center Events
Encore Broadcast: July 31
July 20th’s world-wide simulcast of Monty Python Live (Mostly) will no doubt get a video release sooner than later. With the show recorded and already broadcasted on television in the European Union, pumping out a video product will be easy.
That way, fans can look back at nearly 45 years of this comedy team’s cacophony of the fun and absurd. Technically, the years they were active amounted to 18. The stage show at London’s O2 arena featured the best of this comedy group’s skits from the television show Monty Python’s Flying Circus with more pomp, romp and craziness niched in, and for some folks hoping for a few surprises, the only shame is that no new material was offered.
At least a few of the skits are updated for the times. The Cheese Shop sketch gets an amusing postscript note at the tail end of The Dead Parrot sketch, and that at least shows some fun changes are in store. But for the other skit, either they are given a huge production in the style of Broadway in a way that only Eric Idle can appreciate or they are taken straight out of the tele from long ago.
“The Lumberjack Song,” does not seem any bigger in this stage version, but another number involving genitalia gets extravagant. There’s added lyrics and audiences were invited to sing along. If that isn’t enough to make a sailor and nun blush, maybe the uniquely shaped cannons that pop up near the end can add some excitement.
Long time fans may well feign at the changes, but it works to draw in new crowds, namely those blokes who love musical theatre. This show made use of a live orchestra that worked in perfect sync to the show on stage.
The material that John Cleese, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle and Terry Jones played up stands the test of time. Although the gang is less one member – Graham Chapman passed away from cancer in 1989 – they courteously acknowledged his contributions in a video montage recalling the team’s earlier days. Although Cleese is no longer the spritely man he was from his youth, a 20-something group of young dancers gave a Broadway style show to honour “The Ministry of Silly Walks.”
Although this group looks like they have mellowed with age, nothing has changed about their camaraderie. Even the seventh unofficial Python, Carol Cleveland, performs with them and is warmly embraced. In all of their advancing years, the only thing that seems to have gone is their ability to remember their lines. To see them flub the dialogue during this broadcast is not without some chuckles. Fortunately, a bit of improv was used to cover up those gaffes, and they made for the best moments during this show.
Even the cameos from other well-known celebrities, from Mike Myers to Stephen Fry, made for some grin as wide as a Cheshire cat moments. Perhaps the best bit was with the Galaxy song where astrophysicists Brian Cox (in a pre-recorded scene) vehemently argues over the accuracy of the information presented and Stephen Hawking sweetly gets the final word.
Overall, the skits offered after the intermission was far better than the first. When the show is simply a best of Flying Circus with the odd circumstantial nod to the films, some may wonder why see this show? Quite simply, it’s to see the Python gang get back together and have a jolly old-time on stage just once more. After this performance, it’s unlikely they will reunite for any other collaborative endeavours. Just to remember them as they were, and now, is all that’s needed to ingrain them as legends for all time.