Mary Rodgers, the Broadway composer and children’s book author, died of heart failure June 26 in her Manhattan home. She was 83.
The daughter of musical-theater legend Richard Rodgers, Mary Rodgers was a composer in her own right. Her best-known musical was “Once Upon a Mattress,” the 1959 tuner that launched Carol Burnett into stardom. She also penned 1963 outing “Hot Spot” and 1966 Off Broadway title “The Mad Show,” and contributed tunes to 1977 musical “Working,” among other shows.
As an author, she scored a major hit with her 1972 novel “Freaky Friday,” the body-switch comedy that Disney has twice adapted into films. She wrote the screenplay for the 1976 pic that starred Barbara Harris and Jodie Foster; the 2003 version starred Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan. Disney Theatrical Prods. is currently at work on a musical version of the story as well.
Other book credits include “Summer Switch,” a sequel to “Freaky Friday,” as well as “A Billion for Boris” and “The Rotten Book.”
A lifelong friend of Stephen Sondheim, Rodgers was not only the daughter of Richard Rodgers, the composer of “South Pacific,” “Oklahoma!” and “The King and I,” she was also the mother of Adam Guettel, the Broadway songwriter who won a 2005 Tony for his score to “The Light in the Piazza.”
Rodgers’ first marriage, to Julian Beaty Jr., ended in divorce. Her second marriage, to Henry Guettel, film exec and former head of the Theater Development Fund, lasted until he died last year.
She is survived by sons Alec, Adam and Richard Rodgers Beaty; daughters Constance Peck Beaty and Linda McKay Beaty; sister Linda Rodgers Emory; five grandchildren and two step-grandchildren.