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Flashback: Beyond the Fringe

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Photograph courtesy of PhotoFest.

Spamalot may mark the arrival of Monty Python on the New York stage, but it’s not the first British TV comedy export to make waves on Broadway. That honor goes to Beyond the Fringe, the London comedy revue that touched down at the Golden Theater in 1962. The foursome onstage—Alan Bennett, Jonathan Miller, Dudley Moore, and Peter Cook—wore suits and skinny ties and dealt in smart silliness, funny voices, and outrageous setups. A one-legged man earnestly keeps showing up to audition for the role of Tarzan, despite increasingly insistent turndowns. A Shakespearean sword fight unfolds in delightful half-gibberish (“Good steel, thou shalt thyself in himself embowel”). All four men would go on to success. Cook and Moore grew famous as comic actors, Bennett as a playwright, and Miller—already an M.D. when he broke into show business!—became the world’s most prominent director of Shakespeare, and makes TV documentaries about medicine, science, and religion on the side. Their final Broadway performance was filmed for the BBC; never aired in its entirety, it’s being screened at the Museum of Television and Radio through March 31.


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