04/04/2005 at 01:00 AM EDT
Numbers such as "I Am Not Dead Yet" had the likes of Candice Bergen, Meryl Streep and Whoopi Goldberg roaring with laughter. But as Monty Python's Spamalot opened March 17 on Broadway to record advance ticket sales (surpassing even The Producers') and rave reviews, tears flowed among the original knights-errant. Python comedy troupe members Michael Palin, Terry Jones, Terry Gilliam and John Cleese reunited for the first time in seven years to cheer on fellow Python and Spamalot writer Eric Idle, who based the show on their 1975 movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail. "For me," says Idle, 62, "it was an overwhelming experience of love."