Farewell to Marshall Barer, lyricist for the Broadway musical Once Upon A Mattress. Barer, 75, died of cancer Aug. 25, according to the NY Times obituary.
Barer's first Broadway assignments began when he cowrote songs with Alec Wilder for New Faces of 1956. The duo then worked on a 1957 Ziegfeld Follies. In 1959, Barer teamed with composer Mary Rodgers (daughter of Richard Rodgers) and adapted "The Princess and the Pea" fairy tale into Once Upon A Mattress. Rodgers and Barer also penned five songs for 1966's Off-Broadway smash, The Mad Show and later collaborated on a musical adaptation of Member of the Wedding. The 1966 Broadway show Pousse-Cafe proved less successful for Barer and composer Duke Ellington.
Barer last theatrical endeavour was, alas, a negative one. He had furious creative differences with director Gerald Gutierrez over the 1996 revival of Mattress, starring Sarah Jessica Parker. Relations between Barer and the Mattress company were as chummy as the one onstage between Queen Aggravain and Princess Winnifred of Farfelot. In fact, Barer was so outspoken in his disapproval of Parker's singing and other aspects of the production, the producers banned him from the theatre during rehearsals."
Of Barer, Rodgers said at the time, "Marshall is an incredibly talented man in a lot of different areas. He was a graphic artist, so he has incredibly good eyes for design and knows exactly how a show should look -- especially since the idea of adapting 'The Princess And The Pea' was his. Unfortunately, his opinions are so strong, he likes to be the boss, a one man show. He cares so passionately that he simply can't shut up. Eventually the producers got the message that he was hurting morale. But hopefully we'll all shake hands and possibly hug on opening night."
That didn't happen, but the show did go on (for 33 previews and 187 regular performances at the Broadhurst Theatre), and Once Upon A Mattress remains one of the more popular and appealing light musical comedies of our time.