Mary Rodgers on Splendors and Spats of Mattress

News   Mary Rodgers on Splendors and Spats of Mattress Reached Dec. 20, the day after the revival of Once Upon A Mattress opened on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre, Mary Rodgers affirmed her faith in the musical, which stars Sarah Jessica Parker and features songs by Rodgers and lyricist/co-librettist, Marshall Barer. "I feel just fine," Rodgers said, "and I hope the public will feel the way I do."

Reached Dec. 20, the day after the revival of Once Upon A Mattress opened on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre, Mary Rodgers affirmed her faith in the musical, which stars Sarah Jessica Parker and features songs by Rodgers and lyricist/co-librettist, Mitchell Barer. "I feel just fine," Rodgers said, "and I hope the public will feel the way I do."

Rodgers repeated again what she'd said the day before about the show's multi-generational appeal: "I think it's the only show on Broadway where parents can take their young kids and have as good a time as the children."

As for the show's financial prospects, Rodgers said, "I'm a non-figure person; I don't pay attention to that. I love the producers and I think we're in pretty good shape."

In our previous conversation, Rodgers discussed unavoidable comparisons between the current star, Sarah Jessica Parker, and the original star, Carol Burnett. Rodgers said, "Like the show, Sarah is charming, warm and sweet. And she's utterly different from Carol. Whereas Carol was boisterous and violent, Parker's Princess is more baffled and whimpering with frustration. And she's beautiful, which makes it a real love story with Dauntless [David Aaron Baker]."

Because of these differences, Mattress, directed by Gerald Gutierrez, also has a different look and tone. "The choreography is all new. Such as on the number 'Happily Ever After.' That used to be a strip tease for Carol, but it wouldn't be the same with Sarah because she's gorgeous. Everybody would kill to see her naked! And there's a new song, 'Goodnight Sweet Princess,' for Dauntless, because there's a genuine love story now. Also, we cut the scenes with the Wizard, which were so boring in the original show, I used to leave the theatre." After the opening, Rodgers told Playbill On-Line she wasn't surprised that the show, and Parker's performance, weren't wholeheartedly embraced by all the New York press. "I knew these people would be looking for a clone of Carol Burnett -- though Howard Kissel [of The Daily News] was very sweet."

Relations between Barer and the rest of the Mattress company, especially Gutierrez, have been about as chummy as the one onstage between Queen Aggravain and Princess Winnifred of Farfelot. Barer apparently has been so outspoken the producers made the decision to ban him from the theatre during rehearsals. (For more on the situation, please see the Playbill On-Line story, "Sarah Jessica Parker Mattress Opens Dec. 19."

Of Barer, Rodgers said, "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."

Rodgers later told Playbill On-Line that hugs weren't exactly the order of the evening. "Marshall wasn't terribly polite, but that's just the way he is."

Asked how the problems with Barer might affect their other project together, an adaptation of Carson McCullers' Member Of The Wedding, which they wrote years ago, Rodgers said there have been hints of new interest in the piece, her schedule as chairperson of the Juilliard School Board of Trustees precludes her from taking on such a major project unless there were a truly firm offer in the works. "Even if it came up, I'd have to find the time and the conscience to do it."

Rodgers says that she is quite happy, however, with what has been done with Once Upon A Mattress for its Broadway revival at the Broadhurst Theatre. "I'm crazy about it! It's positively darling and so is she [Sarah Jessica Parker]," Rodgers said.

According to Rodgers, the orchestra for this Mattress is actually slightly smaller than the Off-Broadway incarnation of the first Mattress. "Comparatively, this is a very inexpensive show. We love the The Dodgers [the producers] but they were tough. They gave us a small budget to work with, but in the cutting down, hopefully, that made us more creative."

For all the show's behind-the-scenes squabbles, Rodgers, daughter of one of the all-time great theatre composers, Richard Rodgers, and mother of Floyd Collins composer Adam Guettel, remains enthusiastic about Mattress itself. "It's an extremely funny two hours and 20 minutes with good tunes, a funny book, funny lyrics -- it's a good time. And what else do you go to the theatre for?"

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