In celebration of 40 years of Monty Python and the publication of "Monty Python Lives" (a book about the Pythons' life on the road), Eric Idle and B. T. McNichol have put together an evening of Python sketches which they call "a jubilation." Joyous it is, though there are no Pythons present; their replacements are Jeff B. Davis, Jane Leeves (of Frasier fame), Alan Tudyk (of Firefly and Dollhouse), Rick Holmes, and Jim Piddock. Tudyk and Holmes are graduates of Spamalot and so are no strangers to the Python sensibility. Davis has a background in improvisation and so is used to this sort of craziness. The wonderful Jim Piddock is best known for his participation in the Christopher Guest movies Best in Show, A Mighty Wind, and For Your Consideration, so his zany credentials are in order.
Trying to recreate a classic, especially classic comedy, could have disastrous results in the wrong hands, but not here. In the capable hands of these comic actors, the best bits of the old Monty Python shows are faithfully recreated, including the cross-dressing judges, the clinic that specializes in arguing, The Canadian Mounties, and, of course, the famous dead bird routine. The routines are short and sweet and thanks to the direction of Idle and McNichol (who worked on Spamalot) the 90 minutes fly by.
The comedy seems as fresh as ever. There is not a dud in the some 20 sketches recreated here. There are even some Python songs, such as "All Things Dull and Ugly," which is sung by Leeves, who got her start in the Python movie The Meaning of Life. The audience was not disappointed and could be heard singing along, applauding before the skits began, and even heard saying lines along with the cast like at some midnight movie. But Idle gives the performers leeway to interpret their parts; Rick Holmes comes up with his own zany approach to doing Cleese's "strange walk." Piddock says that the whole enterprise is "really more of a ripoff than a tribute."
An Evening Without Monty Python proves the old adage that great comedy never dies. The show is presented by Westbeth Entertainment at the Ricardo Montalban Theatre and runs until Oct. 4, after which it will travel to Town Hall in New York from Oct. 6-10. Don't miss it.