Celebrate Diahann Carroll With a Look Back at No Strings on Broadway

Stage and screen star Diahann Carroll was born July 17, 1935.

She made her Broadway debut in 1954 in House of Flowers, appearing opposite Pearl Bailey and Alvin Ailey. That year also marked her film debut, playing Myrt in Carmen Jones; five years later, she’d return to the big screen for another movie musical: Porgy and Bess (playing Clara, though her singing was dubbed). Carroll made history in 1962, becoming the first black woman to win the Best Actress in a Musical Tony Award for her performance in No Strings.

In the musical, a successful high-fashion model from Harlem meets and falls in love with an American writer who has made Paris his home. Convinced that their love only needs one another to survive, they embark on a romantic adventure through Europe, clinging to the City of Lights as the harsh reality of America threatens their union. Featuring music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers and book by Samuel Taylor, the show was notable at the time for its casual depiction of an interracial romance.

No Strings opened on Broadway March 15, 1962. The production, directed and choreographed by Joe Layton, played 1 preview and 580 performances before closing August 3, 1963. It received nine Tony Award nominations, winning four, including a special Tony Award for Rodgers.

In addition to Carroll as Barbara Woodruff, the musical starred Richard Kiley as David Jordan, Noelle Adam as Jeanette Valmy, Don Chastain as Mike Robinson, Alvin Epstein as Luc Delbert, Mitchell Gregg as Louis dePourtal, Bernice Massi as Comfort O’Donnell, Polly Rowles as Mollie Plummer, and Paul Cambeilh as Marcello Agnolotti.

No Strings featured scenic design and lighting design by David Hayes and costume design by Fred Voelpel and Donald Brooks (with Brooks providing dresses for Carroll, Rowles, and Massi). Visit the Playbill Vault for the complete cast and creative team.

Following No Strings, Carroll would return to the stage in the 1982 production of Agnes of God, replacing Elizabeth Ashley, and opening the 1995 Canadian premiere of Sunset Boulevard as Norma Desmond.