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
Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
News
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Sport
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
News
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Telesales & Customer Service Executives - Outbound & Inbound

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'