Broadway Composer Mary Rodgers Guettel Passes Away at 83
Mary Rodgers Guettel died at her home in Manhattan this morning after a long illness, according to her son Alec Guettel. She was 83 years old.
An accomplished author, screenwriter and composer, Mary Rodgers' earliest professional credits included serving as Assistant to the Producer of Leonard Bernstein's New York Philharmonic Young People's Concerts. Her Broadway career began as composer of the 1959 musical ONCE UPON A MATTRESS starring Carol Burnett, later broadcast to great success on network television and revived repeatedly. More than 400 productions of ONCE UPON A MATTRESS are presented annually in the U.S. and Canada and a 1997 Broadway production starring Sarah Jessica Parker earned a Tony Award nomination for Best Musical Revival. ABC-TV presented a new version of ONCE UPON A MATTRESS on "The Wonderful World of Disney" in late 2005 (subsequently released on DVD), once again starring Carol Burnett-this time as the wicked Queen Aggravain, with Tracy Ullman as Princess Winnifred.
Ms. Rodgers had been a popular author of fiction for young people ever since her first book was released in 1972: Freaky Friday received the first prize at the Book World Spring Book Festival Awards, The Christopher Award, and was cited on the ALA Notable Book List. In 1977 Disney Studios adapted Freaky Friday into a movie, with screenplay by Rodgers, and starring Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster; a remake was broadcast on the ABC television network in 1995 and a musical version, by Rodgers and John Forster, was presented by Theatreworks/USA in 1991; and a new film remake, starring Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan, was released by Walt Disney Pictures in Summer 2003.
As a composer, her additional theatre credits include HOT SPOT starring Judy Holliday, THE MAD SHOW, WORKING, and THE GRIFFIN AND THE MINOR CANON. Her television credits include Once Upon a Mattress, Three to Make Music (written with her sister Linda and starring Mary Martin), Feathertop, and Marlo Thomas' Free to Be...You and Me. She also composed the scores for several productions featuring the legendary Bil Baird Marionettes, including DAVY JONES' LOCKER and PINOCCHIO, and several musicals for Theatreworks/USA. Her musicals have been celebrated in a revue, HEY, LOVE.
Additional authorship credits include The Rotten Book, A Billion for Boris (The Christopher Award; ALA Notable Book List), Summer Switch and the screenplay for Disney Studios, The Devil and Max Devlin.
The daughter of composer Richard Rodgers and Dorothy Rodgers, she collaborated with her mother on several projects, including: the 1970 book A Word to the Wives; a nationally syndicated radio program of the same title; and Of Two Minds, a monthly column for McCall's Magazine. She also made several concert appearances with William Hammerstein, son of the celebrated lyricist, in an evening of reminiscences, anecdotes and musical selections celebrating their fathers' collaboration.
At the time of her death Mary Rodgers was Chairman Emeritus and served on the Board of the Juilliard School. She served on the boards of Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Inc., the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival and the Dramatists Guild Council.
In private life she was married to Henry Guettel, former Executive Director of the Theatre Development Fund (TDF); Henry Guettel died in October 2013 at the age of 85. She is survived by her sister, Linda Rodgers Emory, five children, and seven grandchildren and step-grandchildren.