Though I wanted to focus on the songs from Once Upon a Mattress when writing yesterday about Mary Rodgers, who passed away on Thursday, I thought it only proper to offer some of her other wonderful of her lesser-known material as a follow-up. So, here are a few selections.
This first comes from the concept album Free to Be...You and Me, originally done in 1972, conceived by Marlo Thomas and then later animated as a TV special. The song here, "William's Doll," is an impressive collaboration. It has music by Mary Rodgers, with words by Sheldon Harnick, the lyricist of Fiddler on the Roof, among many other Broadway shows. And further, it's sung by Alan Alda -- and the woman who accompanies him is Marlo Thomas herself.
One of the most off-beat things that Mary Rodgers wrote for was contributing to the 1966 hit off-Broadway revue, The MAD Show, based on -- yes, the magazine. (It ran for 871 performances, over two years.) Her song, "The Boy From..." was a parody written with lyricist Estaban Rio Nido of then-popular song "The Girl from Ipanema." This alternative number tells of a girl infatuated with a young man from a town that has an near-unpronounceable name, and who for personal reasons we slowly discern, doesn't return her affections, or seemingly those of any young woman. It's worth noting, to say the least, that the lyricist used a pen name, and was, in fact, long-time family friend Stephen Sondheim.
The song here is performed by Linda Lavin, who later went on to star in the TV series, Alice.
This last song comes from the stage revue Working, based on the non-fiction bestseller by Studs Terkel, a collection of interviews with people talking about their jobs. The show, conceived by Stephen Schwartz, began life at the Goodman Theater in Chicago in 1978, and later transferred to Broadway. It wasn't successful, though the show was later adapted for PBS, and has had a long life in school productions and elsewhere.
The score was written by a wide range of composers and lyricists. This song, "Nobody Tells Me How," written by Mary Rodgers along with lyricist Susan Birkenhead, is a lilting, tender, and ultimately heart-wrenching number sung by an older school teacher a bit lost after decades of work, trying to figure out the news way of the world of education. It's wonderfully performed by Bobo Lewis from the original Broadway cast.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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