Always

Previewed 20 May 1997, Opened 10 June 1997, Closed 26 July 1997 at the Victoria Palace Theatre

The new musical Always in London - the love story of Edward and Mrs Simpson

In a world of privilege - a love that broke all the rules. It is hard to imagine a greater testement to love than to give up your crown and your country for the woman you love. It is the stuff of fairytales and legends. It is also the true story of Edward and Mrs Simpson. In 1936 Edward VIII chose to abdicate the throne rather than abandon his true love, Wallis Simpson. Now this extraordinary relationship is brought to life in this new musical.

The cast featured Clive Carter as 'Edward VIII (David)', Jan Hartley as' Wallis Simpson', Shani Wallis as 'Aunt Bessie' and Sheila Ferguson as 'Analise L'Avender' with Chris Humphreys as 'Lord Mountbatten', David McAlister as 'Ernest Simpson', James Horne as 'Stanley Baldwin' and Ursula Smith as 'Queen Mary'. Directed by Frank Hauser and Thommie Walsh with musical staging by Thommie Walsh, additional choreography by Phan Lee Peterson, sets by Hildegard Bechtler, costumes by Tom Rand, lighting by Peter Mumford and sound by Terry Jardine. Musical with music and lyrics by William May and Jason Sprague, book by William May, Jason Sprague and Frank Hauser.

"There have been dud musicals this year, but nothing to match this gloriously misguided attempt by novice writers William May and Jason Sprague to turn the abdication of King Edward VIII and his marriage to American divorcee Wallis Simpson into a fairy-tale royal romance. The tunes are bland and repetitive, the lyrics staggeringly banal. But it is the sheer, cheesy folly of the concept that puts Frank Hauser's hilarious production right up there with Which Witch and The Fields Of Ambrosia for connoisseurs of the truly bad musical. The slight liberties that May and Sprague take with the facts are as nothing compared to their gross schmaltzification of the story. Edward and Mrs Simpson are portrayed as star-crossed innocents, emotional retards seeking refuge from lives blighted by childhood unhappiness. The political ramifications of their affair are therefore seen as an attempt by the Establishment to thwart personal fulfilment... Jan Hartley plays Wallis with the lip-quivering supplication of a dog that's hurt its paw. Clive Carter's Edward is an oafish, overgrown boy whose good intentions often make him look an idiot. Hard as Sprague, May and Hauser try to promote their revolutionary relationship as a timeless romance, it comes across as a piece of heritage kitsch. For a start, the show has only one real song. The signature anthem is reprised and reworked ad nauseam, gawky rhymes and all... Hildegard Bechtler's designs subtly recreate the monochrome glamour of the inter-war era, and the lighting and costumes are impressive. These are the only redeeming elements, though, in a show that should appeal only to those who like to see new musicals fall flat on their fat, pompous faces, and possibly to American tourists who may savour the story's mixture of respectful royalism and individualist subversiveness." The London Evening Standard

"Is this the worst musical ever written? With Buckingham Palace situated so conveniently just around the corner, I trust the entire royal family will be taking a block booking for Always, the new musical about the romance between Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson. History does so have a habit of repeating itself. Possibly only the ignominy of being immortalised so tunelessly and tastelessly 60 years hence will make Charles and Camilla have second thoughts about any impending nuptials... Regrettably, it also lacks anything approaching a good tune, although Clive Carter as the King, a dead ringer for one of J M Barrie's Lost Boys, and Jan Hartley as the serene Wallis, have sufficiently impressive voices and stage presences to almost persuade you otherwise. If there is anything regal about the enterprise it is Hildegard Bechtler's classy set which finds ingenious and elegant solutions to staging 28 scenes, many of which take place not just in different locations but entirely different countries. The authors appear to have imagined that they were writing a movie not a musical... Directors Frank Hauser and Thommie Walsh's solution to the lack of drama is to make everything bigger as the emotions get smaller. There appears to be a cast of thousands. When the story runs out of steam they throw in a fashion parade for free, swiftly followed by a fairground nightmare sequence that is absurdly overblown. There is a fundamental lack of faith in the material, which is entirely justified." The Guardian

"If Always was a place, I'd take you there, the about-to-be Edward VIII sings to his beloved Wallis Simpson. Well, if Always were a place, I'd send them both there - with one-way tickets. Always is a new musical, by first-time writers William May and Jason Sprague, about what is often referred to as the greatest love story of the century. The show probably does not rank among the worst musicals of the century, but insipid songs, unimaginative choreography and dialogue which no more than scratches the surface of a relationship that brought about an abdication ensures its inclusion in any collection of misguided, misbegotten mistakes. The talented Clive Carter plays Edward with the voice of Prince Charles and the conviction of Fergie on a crash diet... Jan Hartley is prettier than Wallis Simpson and almost certainly sings better, too... Clodhopping direction by Frank Hauser and Thommie Walsh involves the introduction of a dog and a trombone-playing chef, but even a chef and a trombone-playing dog would be no substitute for class. Always? Never." The News of the World

The musical Always in London at the Victoria Palace Theatre previewed from 20 May 1997, opened on 10 June 1997 and closed on 26 July 1997