The premiere of the "Monty Python Live (Mostly)" show happened Tuesday night at the O2 Arena in London and, judging from the reviews, it's everything you'd expect from men in their 70s doing 40-year-old material for fans who know every word by heart. Not that it mattered for audience members who paid as much as $350 to see the show. Basically, those who sat down hoping to love it, loved it; those expecting to be disappointed probably were.
The Washington Post noted that, "Monty Python came from a specific time, an era of Cold War nuclear fear and tacky patterned wallpaper," so many of the jokes and much of the tone would seem dated to someone raised on Will Ferrell and The Lonely Island. But, "The best Python sketches remain snippets of absurdist bliss," which is why the movies, which lean heavily on absurdism, still hold up.
The two-star review from the Independent called the show "desperately lazy" and mentioned the rumors that it only finally came together to help John Cleese with alimony payments. But the self-awareness of the show, including the line "Oo'd have thought, 40 years ago, we'd be sitting 'ere doin' Monty Python?" and the introduction of a person who paid to be on stage with the group (the money went to charity), could be read as either laziness or brilliant self-deprecation, depending on the watcher.
The five-star review from the Express appreciated that the show was "refreshingly free from political correctness," and featured the Doctor Who-bashing "Retardis," "prancing, mincing sailors," a Last Supper with three Christs, and giant confetti cannons for "Every Sperm Is Sacred" that filled the first 10 rows with… confetti.
The Guardian offered a complete run-down of the show, which featured back-to-back favorites, but also included the little-remembered Anne Elk Brontosaurus sketch. Comedy legend Stephen Fry made a guest appearance — a spot that will likely be filled by other celebrities as the run continues.
The show is directed by Eric Idle, who also created Spamalot, the Broadway hit based on Monty Python and the Holy Grail, so it makes sense that there were so many musical numbers, which also made up the bulk of the show's new material. Terry Gilliam designed the show, which the New York Times said "suggests Salvador Dalí let loose on the Ziegfeld Follies."
The BBC (which gives the show three stars) called the Pythons a "rickety geriatric gang," but also said that the enormous screens, where the tiny actors (the O2 Arena seats 20,000) are blown up to immense proportions alongside Terry Gilliam's classic animations, created "a new level of surreality to this massive spectacle," which is Pythonesque indeed.
If you'd like a glimpse of the live show, a helpful fan has posted phonecam footage of the show. But then, if you're excited enough to watch a shaky video of old men doing dated material that you already know, then you've probably already got tickets to the show.
Monty Python Live will be broadcast worldwide July 20 in selected theaters.