Shy: The Alarmingly Outspoken Memoirs of Mary Rodgers

Written by Mary Rodgers and Jesse Green

From Farrar, Straus and Giroux:

The memoirs of Mary Rodgers―writer, composer, Broadway royalty, and “a woman who tried everything.”

“What am I, bologna?” Mary Rodgers (1931–2014) often said. She was referring to being stuck in the middle of a talent sandwich: the daughter of one composer and the mother of another. And not just any composers. Her father was Richard Rodgers, perhaps the greatest American melodist; her son, Adam Guettel, a worthy successor. What that leaves out is Mary herself, also a composer, whose musical Once Upon a Mattress remains one of the rare revivable Broadway hits written by a woman.

Shy is the story of how it all happened: how Mary grew from an angry child, constrained by privilege and a parent’s overwhelming gift, to become not just a theater figure in her own right but also a renowned author of books for young readers (including the classic Freaky Friday) and, in a final grand turn, a doyenne of philanthropy and the chairman of the Juilliard School.

But in telling these stories―with copious annotations, contradictions, and interruptions from Jesse Green, the chief theater critic of The New York Times―Shy also tells another, about a woman liberating herself from disapproving parents and pervasive sexism to find art and romance on her own terms. Whether writing for Judy Holliday or Rin Tin Tin, dating Hal Prince or falling for Stephen Sondheim over a game of chess at thirteen, Rodgers grabbed every chance possible―and then some.

Both an eyewitness report from the golden age of American musical theater and a tale of a woman striving for a meaningful life, Shy is, above all, a chance to sit at the feet of the kind of woman they don’t make anymore―and never did. They make themselves.


“I’ve never read [a book about Broadway] more entertaining (and more revealing) than Mary Rodgers’s Shy. Her voice careens between intimate, sardonic, confessional, comic. The book is pure pleasure ― except when it’s jaw-droppingly shocking.” ―Daniel Okrent, The New York Times Book Review

“Mary careens across these pages with her usual wit, wisdom and honesty. It is Mary as we remember her and loved her. Jesse Green, her co-author, deserves much praise for his unique, delightful contribution. One feels that Mary is back with us once again . . . and how lovely is that!” ―Julie Andrews

“Rodgers’s delightfully gossipy tell-all is also a frank, thoughtful chronicle of one woman’s journey through experience to understanding―and a lot of fun to read.” ―Wendy Smith, The Washington Post

“[Rodgers’s] remembrances are lively, witty, honest, and “dishy” regarding a host of boldfaced names, both those she loved and those she hated . . . A Broadway tell-all that deserves to become a classic of music theater lore.” ―Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“[A] rollicking posthumous memoir . . . enriched with droll commentary from Green . . . It’s this playful, self-deprecating humor that makes Rodgers’s stories sing, and fans are sure to delight in every witty detail. This has major star power.” ―Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

“[A] candid, hilarious, and fascinating look at a life lived with honesty and only the occasional regret. Whether Rodgers is recounting her lifelong love for childhood friend Sondheim or describing her perpetually fraught dance with her parents, this will have readers applauding loudly.” ―Ilene Cooper, Booklist (Starred Review)

“One of the best theatrical memoirs since Moss Hart’s Act One . . . Shy has a conversational style that seems to bring the reader in the room with Rodgers. One feels that she is just chatting away, letting whatever comes out of her mouth go down unedited. [Not true: It was really edited and expertly so.] Rodgers comes off as a charming, highly intelligent and cultured Lucy Van Pelt . . . It has to be added that Shy’s footnotes―and there are many―are must reading.” ―Joe Westerfield, Newsweek