AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
"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
"'Outspoken' is a good word for [Rodgers's] memoir, co-authored by New York Times theater critic Jesse Green. You just can't imagine anybody saying the things she says about her father in a polite conversation, and she is just breathtaking in her takedowns of absolutely everybody you regard as remotely famous from that era . . . It's hilarious, for 400 pages." —Bob Mondello, NPR
"Both a joyful chronicle of a life well lived and a box-seat view on some of the best, brightest, and most idiosyncratic creative minds of the 20th century." —Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
"Delectable . . . In part a chronicle of life with father, in part an insider’s view of Broadway during a golden age, Shy is, most compellingly, an account of a woman finding her power and her voice." —Joanne Kaufman, Air Mail
"Snarky, often ribald, always revealing . . . [Jesse Green] quotes Mary's reaction to the very first draft pages of this unique memoir, the only section she lived to read: "Make it funnier. Make it meaner." She would be well pleased." —David M. Alpern, East Hampton Star
"Shy is a treasure chest of goodies for fans of the New York performing arts world at mid-century and just beyond . . . Readers besotted with Old Broadway would probably inhale Rodgers's memoir no matter its quality, but Sky has the added bonus of being note-perfect." —Shelf Awareness
"Shy is the most hilarious, wise, candid and tender memoir I have ever read. And with the best footnotes EVER!" —André Bishop, Artistic Director of Lincoln Center Theater
"Shy is a fascinating first-person account of a vital period in American theatre history . . . worth reading as an account of an unusual, sometimes difficult, but always intriguing life." —Fiona McQuarrie, PopMatters
"Having just finished Shy, an extremely funny and always fascinating book, I am very sorry I never met Mary Rodgers. But I do feel as if I have, because Shy provides the appealing and droll voice of Rodgers, alongside Jesse Green’s always knowledgeable and witty commentary. For anyone who loves Broadway, or wants to hear about its heyday from a lifelong insider, this duet of a memoir is a welcome compendium of information, anecdote, gossip, and strong opinions—and never anything less than a tremendously good story." —Meg Wolitzer, author of The Female Persuasion
"I read Shy in two long, delicious gulps. It is an essential show-biz memoir and a complete portrait, with all the contradictions that make a person real. I'm only sorry that there's no more to read." —Ben Brantley, author of The New York Times Book of Broadway: On the Aisle for the Unforgettable Plays of the Last Century
"Reading Shy is like falling into one of the plush sofas in Mary Rodgers’ elegant living room, drink in hand, while she regales the room in her unique voice. She is in a talkative—very talkative—mood and ready to say, well, anything on her bold and fearless mind. All credit to Jesse Green for organizing Mary’s thoughts and opinions into a fascinating book. Shy gives the reader a full-fledged and revealing portrait of an extraordinary, complex person." —Ted Chapin, author of Everything Was Possible: The Birth of the Musical Follies
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.—Maggie Knapp
A legendary figure of American musical theater narrates her life and her career in startlingly frank terms.
Rodgers moved in theater circles nearly her entire life (1931-2014). Her remembrances are lively, witty, honest, and "dishy" regarding a host of boldfaced names, both those she loved and those she hated. New York Times chief theater critic Green's annotations fill out the history and offer helpful fact-checks. Daughter of composer Richard Rodgers and mother of composer Adam Guettel, Mary, also a composer, surrounded herself with talent. As an adolescent girl, she played word games with lifelong friend Stephen Sondheim; as a teenager, she dated Hal Prince. She served as an assistant for 14 years for the New York Philharmonic’s Young People's Concerts program, and always she found Leonard Bernstein "fascinating." Carol Burnett found her breakthrough role in Rodgers' Once Upon a Mattress, while Judy Holliday bombed in Hot Spot. Rodgers was also the author of classic children's books, including Freaky Friday, and became a leading "philanthropeuse" of New York society, including seven years as chairman of the board of the Julliard School. She takes us inside the "romance"-like nature of collaborating on a musical. The "erotic part of songwriting," she writes, is "the way you mate words with music." She also writes movingly and with "knee-jerk transparency” about parental neglect ("I doubt either of my parents really even wanted to have children"), adultery, rampant alcoholism, and other dark sides of her artistic circles. Her first marriage was a mistake, though "everyone should marry a gay man at least once." Rodgers also endured an abortion and the death of a child. Some of her anecdotes seem like more family lore than lived history—e.g., at Mary's birth, her mother told the nurse, "Take her away and bring her back when she looks younger”—but most of her stories are revelatory and often hilarious. "I broke a lot of rules," she admits, "but they weren't mine."
A Broadway tell-all that deserves to become a classic of music theater lore.