Monty Python Stage Reunion: What the Critics Are Saying

 Ludwig Shammasian

LONDON – The remaining members of U.K. comedy group Monty Python on Tuesday night put on the first of 10 reunion shows at the British capital's O2 Arena, drawing mixed reviews from critics.

The five—John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin and ‎Terry Jones —had touted the show, Monty Python Live (Mostly), during a press conference on Monday, saying they would continue their separate careers but use the final London performance as their farewell as a troupe.

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The Hollywood Reporter's critic said the stage show offered "greatest hits and misses from the comedy Beatles." "The first of 10 farewell shows by the British comedy legends is an uneven mix of classic sketches, archive footage and songs in the key of Spamalot."

During the show, Stephen Fry made a brief appearance onstage to talk about a light bulb getting stuck up his back side. And a video cameo by physicist Stephen Hawking showed him driving his wheelchair into physicist Brian Cox, who hosts science programs on the BBC, and pushing him into a river.

Overall, most critics said the show allows longtime fans to enjoy old favorites from the Python canon.

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Here is a look at what British papers said in their reviews of Monty Python Live (Mostly):

"Monty Python flying as the famous five prove more golden than olden," was the summary headline in The Daily Telegraph.

"They arrived to a prolonged roar of grateful applause—emerging from a police box—the "retardis" [a reference to the Tardis in BBC hit show Doctor Who]—and they departed on the heels of a standing ovation after a mass sing-along of that national anthem, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life," the paper's reviewer wrote.

"The two and a half hours in between suffered its moments of anti-climax, the Lumberjack Song felt strained, and the Ministry of Silly Walks hasn’t survived transplanting into a dance-routine with its funny-bones intact," the Telegraph also found. "But the joyous reprise of skits like Four Yorkshiremen, Nudge Nudge and Spanish Inquisition made you grasp what all the fuss was about and there's plenty more where that came from."

Concluded the paper: "The mashup finale of Dead Parrot Sketch and Cheese Shop is worth the price of admission alone."

The Guardian was more critical, calling the night "a reunion show strictly for the faithful."

Argued the paper's critic: "Everyone wants the Pythons to do the classic stuff, and so they did in a staggeringly lucrative reunion show that is unlikely to make any converts. It was a golden-oldie recapitulation of their greatest hits, padded out with song 'n' dance ensemble numbers from a chorus young enough to be the Pythons' grandchildren."

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Continued The Guardian: "This show is reputedly for John Cleese's alimony bill, but in truth the whole surviving crew—Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones—are submitting to the awesome power of market forces."

Concluded the paper: "Monty Python Live (Mostly) isn't bad: It gives the crowd exactly what they want but relies pretty heavily on the fan love and makes a hefty withdrawal from the reputation bank. It is in fact less satisfying than Spamalot—the stage musical version of their movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail—and it is in some ways a shame that this show could not have drawn more on their classic movies, the films on which their prestige probably now rests …This live show won't make any converts. But it sends the faithful away happy."

The Independent, meanwhile, summarized the show this way: "cute, mildly rude, harmless and also available on DVD."

Its reviewer acknowledged: "I was a fan of the Monty Ps from the start, and it pains me to criticize them. But this is a desperately lazy production, resting on its laurels, uninterested in showcasing new material, relying on TV footage and the whooping adulation of an audience who know all the words."

And the Daily Mail wrote: "Once they were the sharpest thing in satire. Last night, quite often, they looked and sounded like a dodgy tribute band."

It added though: "But the show finally reached something worthy of the hype and the high prices (some tickets on the black market were going for close to $343/£200) when they gave us such old favorites as the Spam sketch, the dead parrot sketch and best of all I Want An Argument."

Concluded the Mail: "The Python humor, at its best (and last night that mainly meant old film clips, such as the 100 Yards Race for People With No Sense of Direction), is genius. At its less good it has aged. Inuendo no longer buys many spuds. Gags about the mentally deficient, gays and people with stammers are not much cop, but I did quite enjoy the camp judges … Maybe we should we more merciful and just thank them for the old memories."

E-mail: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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