My guest today is Jesse Green who, in addition to being the Chief Theatre Critic for the New York Times, is the author of the most acclaimed and talked about theater book in recent memory – SHY: The Alarmingly Outspoken Memoirs of Mary Rodgers.
This is the first of two episodes in which Jesse Green shares with us the story of how Mary Rodgers selected him to tell her remarkable, sometime harrowing, and ultimately inspiring story, and how he was able to perfectly capture her unique voice so perfectly, aas well as her bold and unwaveringly candid view of herself.
Mary Rodgers grew up in the icy shadow of her father, the legendary Broadway composer, Richard Rodgers, and her disapproving mother, Dorothy. As she reached adulthood her closest friends, colleagues, and romantic partners were Stephen Sondheim, Hal Prince, Leonard Bernstein, Jerome Robbins, Martin Charnin, and Arthur Laurents.
Somehow, she became not just a highly successful Broadway composer in her own right — most notably with her score for the Broadway and television hit Once Upon a Mattress — but also a renowned author of books for young people including the classic Freaky Friday.
There is a reason that this book has become a bestseller, and received so much attention, and it’s not just because it’s filed with sometimes juicy gossip about many of the leading lights and minor players of the Golden Age Broadway. No, at its heart, this is the story of a woman who struggles, and I think ultimately succeeds, in liberating herself from disapproving parents, rampant sexism, and her own fears and insecurities as she journeys to discover art, romance and family on her own terms.
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