Composer, Performer, Other
( b. Jan 11, 1931 New York, New York, USA - d. Jun 26, 2014 New York, New York, USA ) Female
Mary Rodgers, who, as the daughter of a famous musical theatre composer (Richard Rodgers), was a musical theatre successful composer herself (Once Upon a Mattress) and the mother of a musical theatre composer (Adam Guettel).
Ms. Rodgers grew up in a household steeped in music and theatre culture. She was born to Richard Rodgers and his wife Dorothy Bell Feiner Rodgers. Richard Rodgers was not at that point the theatre eminence he would become -- though he had already been working with lyricist Lorenz Hart for a decade. But, by the time Mary was 18, he was the author of Pal Joey, The Boys from Syracuse, I'd Rather Be Right and Oklahoma!, Carousel, Allegro, and South Pacific.
Ms. Rodgers found success herself in the theatre at an early age. When still in her 20s, she wrote, with lyricist Marshall Barer and bookwriters Jay Thompson and Dean Fuller, Once Upon a Mattress, a musical adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson fable "The Princess and the Pea." The piece began life as a short play written at the Tamiment adult summer camp in 1958. When it opened at Off-Broadway's Phoenix Theatre the following year, reviews were mixed. But the show -- light and likable -- proved popular. It transferred to Broadway's Alvin Theatre, and then the St. James, playing just over a year, all told. It made a star out of its lead actress, Carol Burnett, who made comic hay out of the awkward Princess Winnifred.
The show thereafter proved a staple in regional and community theatre circles. It was filmed for television in 1964, and again in 1972, both times with Burnett. A Broadway revival in 1996 starred Sarah Jessica Parker.
Outside of Mattress, her most notable success as a composer was "The Boy From...," a comic number that spoofed the popular song "The Girl From Ipanema," written with her childhood friend Stephen Sondheim.
The latter song was drawn from The Mad Show, a successful revue based on MAD magazine that ran a couple years Off-Broadway beginning in 1966. On it, Ms. Rodgers collaborated with librettists Stan Hart and Larry Siegel, and lyricists Marshall Barer and Steven Vinaver. She ended up collaborating with Sondheim on "The Boy From..." when Barer, who was temperamental and prone to tantrums, walked out of the show. "He was exuberantly all over the place," Rodgers told Playbill.com, about Barer. "It could be daunting for new producers, but he was always like that. He took every drug known to man; he was crazy." The original cast featured Linda Lavin, Jo Anne Worley and Paul Sand.
Mary Rodgers also wrote children's books, most notable "Freaky Friday," in which a mother and daughter trade bodies. It was twice made into a film. Rodgers wrote the screenplay for the first one, in 1976. Other books included "A Billion for Boris," "Summer Switch" and "The Rotten Book." Regarding her stage career, she once said, "I had a pleasant talent, but not an incredible talent. I was not my father or my son. And you have to abandon all kinds of things."