No Strings

No-StringsOriginal Broadway Cast, 1962 (Capitol/DRG/Broadway Angel) 3 Stars (3 / 5) Does this sound like a Richard Rodgers musical? A black American fashion model, living in Paris with a rich older lover in attendance, falls in love with a washed-up American novelist who spends his time mooching off of rich patrons. Their romance is played out against an international background of poseurs, party-goers, and professional guests. Not only does the couple not stay together, librettist Samuel Taylor does not make it clear what will happen to them at the end of the show. And that’s No Strings. Composer Rodgers, flying solo after the death of Oscar Hammerstein, furnished his own lyrics and found a style all his own. Richard Kiley and Diahann Carroll are the romantic pair, and though both are fine, she’s the real star here — sassy in “Loads of Love,” furious in “You Don’t Tell Me,” eloquently angry at herself in “An Orthodox Fool.” Her voice blends beautifully with Kiley’s in ballads like “Nobody Told Me,” the title song, and “The Sweetest Sounds,” which features one of Rodgers’ most unusual melodies. These are interspersed with such astringent items as “Be My Host,” “Love Makes  the World Go,” and “Eager Beaver,” most of them featuring Bernice Massi as an American heiress who gets taken for a ride by Kiley’s fast-living friends. Ralph Burns’ orchestrations are true to the title; in Joe Layton’s staging, the wind and brass musicians freely roamed the stage with the actors, giving the score an improvisational, jazzy quality. No Strings is not considered a major Rodgers work, but this is one of the master composer’s most distinctive scores, and it’s historically significant for his work as a lyricist. — David Barbour