Since 786 according to tradition, an English king “must not be begotten in adultery or incest” and that “he who was not born of a legitimate marriage” could not succeed to the throne.” William the Conqueror was illegitimate, but took the throne in 1066 and is the last such case. God Save Queen Pam is definitely a zany fantasy.
The aged King Rupert II dies as he is about to marry the scheming Lady Fenella de Dieul. The King’s private secretary Col. Eleanor Ainsley and his equerry Maj. Johnathan Digby determine that the next in line to The Crown due to a liaison the unmarried King had with a deceased American is her daughter. That’s jovial Pam Duffy who works at a Red Roof Inn’s Tiki bar and lounge near The Meadowlands.
After much convincing Pam accompanies the duo to London. DNA testing confirms her pedigree and she takes up residence in Buckingham Palace with her ferret Ruth and begins royal tutelage under Eleanor. There are romantic sparks between Pam and Eleanor’s assistant Maj. Jaimie Toben. Meanwhile, Lady Fenella is conspiring to take the throne with the aid of her fey son Augustus. Sir Robert, the unseen Prime Minster, is also involved in the intrigue and his sight gag appearance during the finale is hilarious.
Ms. Quinlan’s fluffy book is a throwback to Hollywood screwball comedies and trifles of Broadway’s Golden Age. Quinlan’s solid score is a jaunty pastiche of The Sherman Brothers’ Mary Poppins with stylistic dashes of Noël Coward’s 1960’s works Sail Away and The Girl Who Came to Supper. Those shows like most of that era and many today, had out of town tryouts. In modern times shows that don’t play first in other cities have lengthy previews in New York before opening.
This is God Save Queen Pam’s world premiere and though spirited, it’s sluggish at a full length of two and half hours with an intermission. There’s repetitiousness, extraneousness and a wan presentation. With editing that enforces more of the plot and higher production values it’s conceivable that its evident whimsical charms could be whipped up into a madcap entertainment. For now, it’s best viewed as a workshop with potential that showcases the game cast.
Quinlan’s down to earth charm, appealing persona and dry comic timing make a Pam a sympathetically relatable figure in the style of Melissa McCarthy. The magnetic Carolyn Light’s Eleanor is a lively and complex portrait of a stiff upper lip establishmentarian. Evan Quinlan as Digby is delightfully fuddy-duddy.
The athletic David Ventura as Toben is subtly humorous and coolly masculine. Like a cartoon character come to life, Mari Minette Linder is splendidly villainous and haughty as Lady Fenella de Dieul. As her son and cohort, the hyper Michael Kennedy wickedly suggests a young Roddy McDowall at his campiest.
Adena Walker and Bryna Kearney vividly portray a variety of supporting roles with dynamism. In his multiple appearances that include the decrepit king, a N.J. simpleton, and a pompous hat maker, Brian Esposito is outstanding with his uproarious characterizations.
Director Brian Tuttle has skillfully gotten the show on its feet but there’s a paucity of visual creativity. Ms. Linder’s adept choreography is minimal.
Bryce Cutler’s spare scenic design consists of regal red and white curtains that wrap around the stage, small chandeliers and some furniture. Mary Ellen Stebbins’ lighting design is straightforward. Blaring bag pipes for a running gag is one of the elements of Justin Woo’s efficient sound design. Costumer Allyon Alloway provides a collection of garments that suitably realizes all of the characters.
Structurally and physically unpolished, God Save Queen Pam does achieve a level of the frothy escapism it aspires to.
God Save Queen Pam (through July 29, 2018)
The Players Theatre, 115 MacDougal Street, in Manhattan
For tickets, call 866-811-4111 or visit http://www.godsavequeenpam.com
Running time: two hours and 30 minutes including one intermission