No Strings 1962 Original Broadway Cast
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Audio CD, Soundtrack, June 8, 2004
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Broadway collectors are once again after this 1962 album, due in large part to the successful 2003 production of No Strings at City Center's Encores. This was the first musical with music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers, and this recording (starring Diahann Carroll and Richard Kiley) was out on CD only briefly in 1993. A Tony Award winner, back in print for the first time in too long!
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The result, NO STRINGS, has some high points but all in all it's an uneven score. There's "The Sweetest Sounds," which opens and closes the show, and clearly Rodgers knew he had the game-winner with that one. There's Diahann Carroll's voice, which pushes Rodgers' sound into a Vegas style, but that's OK, in this context. But if you actually listen to what the songs are about, they're either two people kicking things back and forth at one another (we're-in-love, no-maybe-we'-re-not, wait-I-think-we-are) or the oh-so-precious utterings of high-fashion hangers-on in early Sixties Paris.
Here's the weird thing: after quite a few listenings, my favorite song is a minor one in the show, "Eager Beaver" (high-fashion hangers-on), because the melody sounds like a pure cut-out from, say, PAL JOEY or ON YOUR TOES.
So I give the show three stars, meaning it's worth listening to, but it's hard to think it'll rise to the top of your collection.
I like the "big band" kind of arrangement to this score (no strings), and I have always enjoyed Diahann Carroll. My favorite pieces here are Sweetest Sounds and No Strings, but I had forgotten some of the smaller pieces that remind the listener of the story line.
Having grown up with parents who bought (and played -- a lot) every cast album of every show they saw (and they saw some on Broadway and almost all that came to Philadelphia to try out), knowing the story line was a big part of the listening experience. And the album notes are here! There were many times that I could not remember whether or not I had actually seen a musical, I got to know the music and had imagined the story (as told in the album notes) so well.
Carroll was an adept musical theater veteran, who all but stole the show from star Pearl Bailey in the 1956 Broadway musical HOUSE OF FLOWERS. Joining Carroll was Richard Kiley, riding on the success of his acclaimed performance in REDHEAD. In fact, NO STRINGS made history for featuring the first depiction of an inter-racial romance in a Broadway musical (not counting the subplot of Joe Cable and Liat in SOUTH PACIFIC). As mentioned above, the score for NO STRINGS is a real delight, featuring the classic "Sweetest Sounds" as well as several juicy numbers for Carroll and Kiley, both solo and duet. DRG have done a lovely job in reissuing this often-requested cast album. And, as of this reviews's writing, the London cast album is being slated for release by Must Close Saturday Records.