Mary Rodgers: Richard Rodgers’ daughter who had her own success writing musicals as well as novels for young readers

 

Mary Rodgers was the daughter of the celebrated composer Richard Rodgers, who in partnership with lyricists Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II produced many of the most enduring musicals in the history of American theatre.

She achieved her own artistic success with works including the musical Once Upon a Mattress and the novel Freaky Friday.

She grew up listening to her father coax tunes from the piano and observing the celebrity, if not contentment, that came to him as a creator of musicals such as Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I and The Sound of Music. She displayed artistic promise and pursued music as a vocation. She was best known for writing the music for Once Upon a Mattress, which was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale about the princess and the pea. “She has a style of her own, an inventive mind and a fund of cheerful melodies,” the drama critic Brooks Atkinson wrote in The New York Times.

With lyrics by Marshall Barer, the musical opened in 1959 with a young Carol Burnett as Princess Winnifred. The show was nominated for a 1960 Tony for best musical but lost to The Sound of Music, which shared the title with Fiorello! Her other musicals from the 1960s, including Hot Spot, a satire about a Peace Corps volunteer, and The Mad Show, a revue inspired by Mad magazine, did not enjoy the same popularity, and she shifted her attention to writing books for young readers.

The most famous was Freaky Friday (1972), the story of Annabel Andrews, a teenager who, after quarrelling with her mother, wakes up to discover that they have switched bodies. High jinks and, eventually, a degree of understanding ensue. Rodgers wrote the screenplay for the 1976 film version, starring Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster as mother and daughter. Shelley Long and Gaby Hoffmann appeared in a 1995 TV version and a 2003 remake featured Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan.

Rodgers wrote several sequels, including A Billion for Boris (1974), in which Annabel and a friend stumble upon a television set that broadcasts news from the future, and Summer Switch (1982), in which her brother and father switch bodies in Freaky Friday fashion.

Years later, after Rodgers revealed the unhappy elements of her childhood, her zany novels seemed a sort of commentary on the chasms that can exist between parents and children. In adulthood, she and her sister, Linda, described their father’s struggles, which included alcoholism and depression. Mary recalled her surprise at seeing a home video of herself with her father when she was a baby.

“There’s a really handsome, loving, funny guy lying in a pair of swimming trunks on the grass playing with this baby, with a kind of good-natured, silly joy ... And I looked at it and thought, God, where did that man go and why did I never see him? That charming-looking handsome kid turned into a wizened, sad, deer-in-the-headlights person.”

Mary Rodgers, writer: born 11 January 1931; married (two sons); died 26 June 2014.

© The Washington Post

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Administrator - IT - Fixed Term, Part Time

£17340 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Come and join one of the UK's leading ca...

Recruitment Genius: Property Sales Consultant - Chinese Speaking - OTE £70,000

£18000 - £70000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity for a Fluent Chines...

Recruitment Genius: AV Installation Engineer

£27000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to business growth, this is...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent