'An Evening Without Monty Python'

From the co-creators of "Spamalot," it hardly seems a worthy tribute to offer up "Spamalittle."

Truth in advertising, anyway: The Ricardo Montalban Theater’s revue is indeed “An Evening Without Monty Python.” Reenactments by a game but hapless quintet, ostensibly to celebrate the legendary U.K. troupe’s 40th anniversary, barely hint at the anarchic style and seamless dynamic with which millions are familiar. Despite the imprimatur of Eric Idle and John Du Prez, co-creators of the tuner “Spamalot” (itself a little light on Python spirit), it hardly seems a worthy tribute to offer up “Spamalittle.”

Following the ageless Sousa “Liberty Bell” theme march, curtain rises on five worthies in camouflage fatigues for some “close order swanning about” (“Oooh/Get/Her, Whoops!/I’ve got/Your number, ducky”), after which the sketches and blackouts come fast and furious, much as in compilation pic “And Now for Something Completely Different.” But the staging isn’t completely different at all, just enough to make one long for the real thing.

Ironically, those who barely know Python are likely to be the most appreciative spectators. Any newcomer to the Pet Shop Sketch (“‘ello, I wish to register a complaint….This parrot is definitely deceased”) will find genial Jim Piddock and Alan Tudyk considerably more hilarious than a latenight dorm room re-creation, even given the echoing sound system more appropriate to the Staples Center than to the Montalban.

But if you’ve lived for four decades with the “Norwegian blue…pining for the fjords,” you can’t help but miss proprietor Michael Palin’s wild-eyed nervousness, as if dreading more than being busted for a dead-parrot scam. And as Tudyk blows his top, you’re thinking how much funnier it was when John Cleese seethed with tight-lipped fury to postpone the explosion.

So it goes throughout. Comparisons are odious, but inevitable in the case of Python, and always to the detriment of the new thesps caught between the interests of fidelity and finding new colors. Tudyk strikes the best balance under the helming of Idle and B.T. McNicholl.

Piddock and Rick Holmes are aided by resemblances to Idle and Palin respectively, while Jeff B. Davis and Jane Leeves just seem outclassed.

When you come right down to it, the Pythons’ peerless characterizations were calibrated to the camera lens, such that even the original team’s live performances fell short of their film and video genius. Quick costume changes, and the absence of Terry Gilliam’s linking animation, work against performance assurance. It all seems quite futile, and rather cynical as well considering a $75 top for 75 minutes of show.

How does the old joke go? The food wasn’t so great, and such small portions.

The production silly-walks its way to Gotham’s Town Hall beginning Oct. 6.

An Evening Without Monty Python

Ricardo Montalban Theater; 946 seats; $75 top

Production

A WestBeth Entertainment presentation of a revue in one act with material by John Cleese, Graham Chapman, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones and Michael Palin. Directed by Idle and B.T. McNicholl. Musical direction, John Du Prez.

Creative

Choreography, Peggy Hickey. Costumes, Ann Closs-Farley; lighting, Jen Schriever; sound, Dennis Moody. Opened, reviewed Sept. 24, 2009. Runs through Oct. 4. Running time: 1 HOUR, 15 MINS.

Cast

With: Jeff B. Davis, Rick Holmes, Jane Leeves, Jim Piddock, Alan Tudyk.

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