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Assessment: ‘Disgrace,’ by Mary Rodgers and Jesse Inexperienced

Shy: The Horror Memoirs of Mary Rodgers, by Mary Rodgers and Jesse Inexperienced


Let’s begin with a full disclosure: I am a Broadway performer – a type of theatergoers who will see 5 totally different productions of the identical present, who appeared earlier than the albums of the ’50s, which embrace the gossip of theater as if it had been an essential matter. . I additionally like books about Broadway, totally different books like “Act One” by Moss Hart, “The Season” by William Goldman and Jack Viertel “The Secret Lifetime of American Music.” However I’ve by no means learn a greater (and extra revealing) one than “Disgrace” by Mary Rodgers. His voice cares between intimacy, sardonic, confessional, comedian. This ebook is nice enjoyable – besides when it is actually scary.

Written in collaboration with the New York Instances theater critic Jesse Inexperienced, who accomplished it after Rodgers’ demise on the age of 83 in 2014, “Shy” tells the life story of the profitable songwriter-scriptwriter-television creator of youngsters’s books. Additionally the mom of six, spouse of two, occasional adulterer, religious believer in a check marriage and Stephen Sondheim (!) meet.

“Dad” is the primary phrase within the ebook, and it evokes a lot of Setala’s first footnotes, enhancing the pages of “Sy” like butter on a steak. This one captures Richard Rodgers in 4 phrases: “creator, womanizer, alcoholic, genius.” Everyone knows the designer half, and in case your tastes run within the course of “Oklahoma!,” “South Pacific,” “Carousel,” and plenty of others., Artist too. As for the opposite two factors, femininity was unstoppable, operating among the many refrain ladies, Eva Gabor, who seems to be Diahann Carroll and Tuptim first in “The King and I” – in line with Mary, “the Burmese slave princess that ever was.” Consuming was equally good. Dick (as he recognized (and will probably be recognized right here to maintain varied Rodgers straight) hid bottles of vodka in bathroom tanks – a intelligent trick for an outdated man whose bladder wasn’t as sturdy as first. Lunch was anointed with a 50-50 mixture of Dubonnet and gin. Evenings heralded a gentle stream of Scotch-and-sodas. A depressed man who had spent months three in a psychiatric hospital, he was additionally distant and impure, able to cruelty. Mary writes, “He hated losing his time on intangibles like feelings.”

In comparison with Dorothy Rodgers, nonetheless, Dick (whom Mary ultimately forgives and understands) would have been one of many Care Bears. However “Mummy” (due to Dorothy’s inconsistency, it’s a phrase that may be learn as each a reputation and a noun) was self-centered and cruelly important. Mary had quite a bit to work with you to know why one chapter is known as “I Delete My Mom.” He was a Demerol addict, a melodramatic hypochondriac, a weirdo (and, coincidentally, the creator of Johnny Mop). Mary writes: “My mom’s concept of ​​a daughter was a younger lady who was pregnant with a canine; Father, Clara Schumann as a refrain lady. In 1964 Dorothy printed “Issues I Love,” a information for the higher class that instructed readers, as summarized by Inexperienced, “how you can beautify their residences and serve aspic.” He provides, “her marriage was not chilly and candy.”

Dick and Dorothy are prominently current all through “Shy,” and Mary’s to search out them ghastly and humorous (she favored Dick’s earlier work, however “later, with these divine songs and the rousing singing of contralto girls, I typically hated what he what he was making an attempt to do”). Nevertheless it’s the showbiz world all of them lived in that elevates the ebook to the troupe of Broadway tales.

Once I put together to evaluate a ebook, I spotlight essentially the most highly effective factors and write the related web page numbers on the paper. Within the first 17 pages of “Disgrace,” my listing has 13 entries – and now, after I look again, I see that there are additionally good issues in 4, 7, 15 and 16. And if my pencil did not work within the chapters. about his two marriages (the second glad, the primary troubling), I used to be not disenchanted. How can I resist a voice so clear, so harsh? You are not even 10 pages into the ebook when he introduces the person who wrote the “West Facet Story” books. and “Gypsy” and directed “La Cage aux Folles” as “Arthur Laurents, little shit.” (Later within the ebook, he’s severe: “Expertise stands for nothing however Arthur Laurents.”)

On Hal Prince, her former lover: “Hal was born with a listing of individuals he wished to fulfill.” Leonard Bernstein, with whom he collaborated within the Youth Concert events for greater than ten years: “It was troublesome not to concentrate to Lenny, who made certain that he was at all times .” Twenty-one-year-old Barbra Streisand, whom Mary first met backstage at a cabaret: “This energetic lady wears a peach, her hair continues to be braided like challah.” Maybe, Bob Keeshan, who was additionally Captain Kangaroo, to whom he wrote his lyrics when he was simply beginning out: “A fats boy with a bowl haircut who known as himself a mobster and he seems to be like just a little youngster abuser.” And 22-year-old Woody Allen, whom he met on the summer time theater: He was already “the wonderful one that would turn into well-known ten years later,” spending many of the summer time on the porch follow clarinet or inside. (and his first spouse, Harlene) “practiced intercourse, most likely from a guide. He was doing higher, it appeared, with the clarinet. ”

Mary has good issues to say about Bing Crosby, Truman Capote, Judy Holliday, Elaine Stritch, George Abbott (everybody who labored in theater within the twentieth century has tales of George Abbott, however not as candy as Mary). Even Roy Rogers and Dale Evans seem on this ebook. (He wrote songs for them, as he did for “Lassie” and “Rin Tin Tin” — the reveals, he factors out, not the canines.) Comparable work with the Bil Baird Marionettes enabled him to be taught to jot down for “some. picket individuals.”

However above the group of hundreds of attention-grabbing individuals who inhabited his world and this ebook, the principle particular person in his life, apart from his dad and mom, was Sondheim. They met after they had been younger; Mary was smitten as soon as and for all. They remained shut to one another for seventy years, having fun with one another and relying on one another to such an extent that it was virtually a wedding that made sense. The thought, conceived after they had been of their 20s, was a one-year experiment (“I do know what you are speaking about,” he tells the reader. “Maria, do not do this!”). His homosexuality was a given, so though they usually slept in the identical mattress, they by no means touched one another, each “chilly with concern.” We simply lay there. We didn’t talk about something; we did not do something.” Ultimately, confusion, anger and reality mixed to say it was a mistake, nevertheless it didn’t destroy the secure relationship that lasted till Mary’s demise. “Let’s discuss it straight,” Mary agreed. Sondheim “was the love of my life.”

Counting time is incomplete when a life like Mary’s is made by a thoughts like Mary’s; one of many ebook’s different titles, Inexperienced tells us, was “The place Was I?” He jumps backwards and forwards between many many years, the interruption hangs on the anecdote, then hangs on the facet. Typically, you are left with barely annoying (if humorous) doubts: About one member of the family, “I haven’t got something good to say – and I will say it later .” Might I’ve chosen a clearer rationalization? It wasn’t an opportunity, as a result of it could have put an finish to his exhilarating innocence (which sparked yet one more theme: “What Are You Considering About?”).

Mary’s greatest success was “As soon as Upon a Mattress,” her musical (directed by Abbott) of “The Princess and the Pea,” which launched her Broadway profession in 1959 (re to not point out its comparatively unknown star, Carol Burnett). This story actually matches her life: She writes that the princess “should undergo the useless and icy queen to get what she needs and dwell fortunately ever after.” For Maria, the trick labored. Greater than 50 years after it lastly began, his “Mattress”. salaries had been nonetheless over $100,000 a yr. (If that appears spectacular, think about this: Even within the twenty first century, the Rodgers and Hammerstein households had been nonetheless raking in $7 million a yr.) As Mary used to say buddies when he got here to get the verify on the restaurant, “When your father used to get the verify on the restaurant. writes ‘Oklahoma!’ you may pay for dinner.” Inexperienced mentioned it was a cellphone name he used steadily “as a result of he would settle for an ungainly scenario and recover from it rapidly.” Pure Mary.

However what can also be the pure Maria, I used to be satisfied, is below his harmful revelations and embarrassing anecdotes: one thing that’s inevitable wealthy, particularly in relation to his dad and mom. After quoting Dorothy very acidly, Mary writes, “It was too late to return – it at all times is.” And Dick? It was all about his music; every little thing that cherished him went out of it, and there was no use wanting wherever. It is also true that I had no alternative – nevertheless it was sufficient. “

Dick and Dorothy are lifeless, and Mary is lifeless too. Their timber, despite the fact that they’re collectively, are tightly closed. Though I’m nonetheless on the lookout for one thing to love about Dorothy Rodgers, I’ll admit that Richard Rodgers left some songs that I really like. However Mary Rodgers left this ebook, which I really like much more.

Alternatively, I could not fairly work out why he despised Arthur Laurents.


Daniel Okrent, writer of “Final Name” and “The Guarded Gate,” is writing a ebook about Stephen Sondheim.


Shy: The Horror Memoirs of Mary Rodgers, by Mary Rodgers and Jesse Inexperienced | Proven | 467 pp. | Farrar, Straus & Giroux | $35

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