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When PBS called and asked if we could do a show, it took less than thirty seconds for me to say yes.” So reveals Diahann Carroll during her PBS concert, The Lady, The Music, The Legend, that screened at the Screen Actors Guild Foundation Theatre. Through the years Diahann’s talents have enhanced our theatrical memory bank, richly evident in this performance that airs in July.
The hour-long concert’s a re-cap of an exceptional career, as Diahann swings and sways through her memorable musical oeuvre. We’re reminded that she starred in the Broadway musical, House of Flowers, written by Truman Capote about competing bordellos in the West Indies, with the score and lyrics by Harold Arlen. Pearl Bailey starred as a madam, with the virginal Diahann (Ottilie) under her tutelage. The tender ballad, A Sleeping Bee, became a signature song for Diahann, and House of Flowers was the first Broadway musical with its blues and calypso score to employ the steel pan that’s popular in the Caribbean tropics.
She recalls her 1962 meeting with Richard Rodgers, who’d written both the score and the lyrics for No Strings, his first time without a collaborator. “Again, it took less than 30 seconds to agree to be in the musical.” Diahann starred as a model living in Paris, who falls for novelist Richard Kiley. Conceiving of this interracial romance, Rodgers was ahead of the times.