Tag Archives: Richard Rodgers

Shy: The Alarmingly Outspoken Memoirs of Mary Rodgers (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2022)

A good book on an extraordinary woman. Mary Rodgers had great success as the composer of Once Upon a Mattress, the Broadway musical that made Carol Burnett a star, as the writer of  the best-selling Freaky Friday novels, and as screenwriter of the film adaptation, then re-made almost generationally: my favourite is the Lindsey Lohan/ Jamie Lee Curtis version. Those two properties alone were so successful that they ended up requiring a management company and – as she bemoans – too much of her time. The success however was not enough to overcome her sense that she isn’t good enough, not compared to her father (Richard Rodgers), her son (Adam Guetell) or the love of her life (Stephen Sondheim). And if that’s how you want to measure your worth, one can see her point. But it’s an impossible measure. Aside from her work, she also had seven children, six of whom lived to contented and successful adulthoods, and who – to her surprise – seem to love a mother who never thought she was good enough in that area either. Not being good enough is one of the themes of this book. But it’s all relative. Mary Rodgers comes across as one of those fast, wise-cracking, chain-smoking mid-century East-coast women who seem to type a novel with one hand, sock a mugger with the other, all while hosting a cocktail party glittering with the wittiest repartee to be had amongst Manhattan’s best and brightest, all of whom were close intimate friends and appear here: Rodgers and Hammerstein, Sondheim, Burnett, Arthur Laurents, Leonard Bernstein, Hal Prince, John Kander, Mary Martin, Judy Holliday, etc etc


Jose Arroyo