Shy: The Alarmingly Outspoken Memoirs of Mary Rodgers

Farrar. Aug. 2022. 480p. ISBN 9780374298623. $30. MEMOIR
Rodgers was working on this dishy memoir (with New York Times chief theater critic Green) when she died at age 83 in 2014. Rodgers, daughter of one half of Rodgers & Hammerstein, meant the memoir to be shocking and she doesn’t mince words. She writes her father could “count his friends on no hands.” Green’s extensive footnotes provide background and context, and gently rein in Rodger’s occasionally cloudy recollections or inaccuracies. Along with gossipy stories and acerbic zingers, Rodgers explores being a woman, a single mom and Jewish in a time when those traits signaled outsider and usually held a person back. She shares both successes (her musical Once Upon a Mattress; YA novel Freaky Friday; philanthropy, motherhood) and low points (friction in relationships, sour business deals, the death of a son). She admits her own mistakes and points out the shortcomings of others along the way.
VERDICT Rodgers tells it the way she saw it, often stripping away the celebrity glamour of growing up in a revered musical theater environment. Green is a welcome and unobtrusive organizing voice and fact checker. Hollywood biography readers and musical theater fans will enjoy.
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