Cinderella (1997 film)

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Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella
Cind 1997.jpg
DVD cover
Based on Cendrillon
by Charles Perrault
Written by Robert L. Freedman
Oscar Hammerstein II
Directed by Robert Iscove
Starring Brandy
Whitney Houston
Jason Alexander
Victor Garber
Whoopi Goldberg
Bernadette Peters
Veanne Cox
Natalie Desselle
Paolo Montalban
Theme music composer Richard Rodgers
Oscar Hammerstein II
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
Producer(s) Whitney Houston
Debra Martin Chase
Craig Zadan
Neil Meron
Robyn Crawford
David R. Ginsburg
Running time 88 min
Production company(s) Walt Disney Television
BrownHouse Productions
Storyline Entertainment
Distributor Buena Vista Television
Budget $18 million
Original network ABC
Original release November 2, 1997

Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (also known as Cinderella)[1][2][3] is a 1997 American musical fantasy television film[4] produced by Walt Disney Television, directed by Robert Iscove from a teleplay by Robert L. Freedman. Based on the classic French fairy tale by Charles Perrault, the film is the second remake and third version of Rodgers and Hammerstein's television musical, which originally aired in 1957. Adapted from Oscar Hammerstein II's original book, Freeman modernized the script to appeal more contemporary audiences while remaining faithful to the original. Co-produced by Whitney Houston, who also co-stars as Cinderella's Fairy Godmother, the film stars Brandy in the titular role and features a racially diverse cast that includes Jason Alexander, Victor Garber, Whoopi Goldberg, Bernadette Peters, Veanne Cox, Natalie Desselle and Paolo Montalban. The film features choreography by Rob Marshall, and was produced by Walt Disney Television, BrownHouse Productions and Storyline Entertainment.

Following the revolutionary success of the 1993 television adaptation of the musical Gypsy (1959), Houston approached Gypsy's producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron about starring as the title character in a remake of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella for CBS. However, the project was continuously delayed by the network; when the idea was greenlit by ABC several years later, Houston felt that she had outgrown the role of Cinderella, and offered it to Brandy instead in favor of playing the character's Fairy Godmother herself. Several songs from other Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals were interpolated into the film to augment its original score, including musical numbers for Peters', Alexander's and Houston's characters, serving to both develop its characters and expand its story.

Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella premiered on ABC on November 2, 1997 to generally lukewarm reviews from entertainment critics. Cinderella was a ratings, airing to 60 million viewers and establishing itself as the most-watched television musical in decades. The program remained the most-watched program of the entire week, and and was the #1 show of the week, earning ABC its highest Sunday night ratings in 10 years, this version earned an Emmy Award and an Art Directors Guild Award.


Cinderella's Fairy Godmother (Whitney Houston) explains that nothing is impossible in this magical kingdom; in the village, Cinderella (Brandy) struggles under the weight of the purchases of her ill-tempered Stepmother (Bernadette Peters) and her spiteful stepsisters Minerva (Natalie Desselle-Reid) and Calliope (Veanne Cox). Cinderella's imagination wanders ("The Sweetest Sounds"). Disguised as a peasant, Prince Christopher (Paolo Montalban) is also strolling through the marketplace, the two meet when the Prince rushes over to help Cinderella after she is nearly run over by the royal carriage. They begin to talk and realize they are both dissatisfied with their sheltered lives, she is charmed by his sincere, direct nature, while he is drawn to her naïve honesty and purity. Their conversation is cut off when Cinderella's Stepmother scolds her for talking to a stranger, the Prince reluctantly leaves, but tells Cinderella that he hopes to see her again.

Back at the palace, the Prince tries to explain his sense of isolation to his loyal valet Lionel (Jason Alexander), who frantically upbraids him for his clandestine venture into the village, he learns that his mother Queen Constantina (Whoopi Goldberg) is making preparations for a ball where he is to select a suitable bride from all the eligible maidens in the kingdom. The Prince wishes to fall in love the old-fashioned way; his father King Maximilian (Victor Garber) seems to understand, but the Queen will not listen, and dispatches Lionel to proclaim that "The Prince is Giving a Ball." Meanwhile, the Stepmother is determined to see one of her graceless, obnoxious and self-indulgent daughters chosen as the Prince's bride at the ball; she begins to plan their big night. Cinderella wonders if she, too, might go to the Prince's ball. Finding the idea humorous, Stepmother reminds Cinderella of her lowly station and warns against dreams of joy, success, and splendor. Disappointed, Cinderella dreams of a world away from her cold and loveless life ("In My Own Little Corner").

While the preparations for the ball are underway, the Prince confronts his parents, who refuse to cancel it. Using his diplomatic skills, Lionel creates a compromise between the Prince and his parents: the Prince will go to the ball, but if he doesn't meet a suitable bride that night then he gets to seek his true love in his own way, at the same time, Stepmother drills Minerva and Calliope on how to ensnare the Prince and warns them to hide their flaws at all costs. As Cinderella questions the meaning of love and romance, Stepmother reminds the girls that going to the ball has nothing to do with finding love and everything to do with getting a husband by any means necessary ("Falling in Love With Love"), on the big night, Stepmother, Minerva and Calliope depart for the palace in their garish gowns and leave a teary-eyed Cinderella home alone.

In response to Cinderella's tearful wish to go to the ball, the beautiful Fairy Godmother appears and encourages Cinderella to start living her dreams ("Impossible"), she transforms a pumpkin into a gilded carriage, rats into a coachman and footmen, mice into regal horses, and Cinderella's simple clothes into a gorgeous blue gown with a bejeweled tiara and glass slippers. The Fairy Godmother cautions Cinderella that magic spells have time limits, and she must leave the palace before the stroke of midnight. Cinderella finally begins to believe "It's Possible" for her dreams to come true.

At the ball, Lionel dutifully delivers eligible maidens to the Prince on the dance floor, and Stepmother fiendishly schemes behind the scenes on behalf of her daughters, the Prince is unimpressed by Minerva, who breaks out in an itchy rash, and Calliope, who snorts uncontrollably at everything the Prince says. Suddenly, Cinderella appears at the top of the staircase, and the Prince has eyes only for her. Soon they are waltzing together ("Ten Minutes Ago"), and the "Stepsisters Lament" over their bad luck, the King and Queen are intrigued by this mysterious princess. Embarrassed by their questions about her background, Cinderella escapes to the garden in tears, where Fairy Godmother magically appears for moral support, the Prince follows Cinderella into the garden and the pair wonders if their newfound love is real ("Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?"). Just as they share their first kiss, the tower clock begins to strike midnight. Cinderella flees before her gown changes back into rags, leaving behind on the palace steps a single clue to her identity: a sparkling glass slipper, the Prince tries to follow her but gets held up by the crowd at the ball.

Stepmother and the Stepsisters return home telling exaggerated stories about their glorious adventures with the Prince, they speak in envious tones of a mysterious "Princess Something-or-other" who, they concede, also captured the Prince's attention. When Cinderella "imagines" how an evening at the ball would be "A Lovely Night", Stepmother recognizes her as the mystery princess, she coldly reminds Cinderella that she is common-born and should stop dreaming about a life that she will never have. In the face of such cruelty, a devastated Cinderella prays to her late father for the strength to find a happier life, her Fairy Godmother reappears and advises her to share her feelings with the Prince.

Meanwhile, Lionel and the heartbroken Prince seek the maiden who lost the glass slipper, but none of the eligible female feet in the kingdom measure up, the Prince and Lionel finally arrive at the Stepmother's cottage. The Stepsisters and even Stepmother try to fit their feet into the delicate slipper, but to no avail, as the dispirited Prince prepares to leave, he finds Cinderella attempting to run away, only to have her baggage trampled by the royal coach. He recognizes her from their first meeting in the market and, knowing that he has finally found his true love, places the slipper on her foot: it fits.

Cinderella and the Prince marry under the approving eye of King Maximilian and Queen Constantina, as the gates of the palace slam shut on Cinderella's stepfamily; left outside as the Prince and his new Princess start their lives together. The Fairy Godmother blesses the royal couple with the message that "There's Music in You", as they are cheered by their joyful subjects.



Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella was a co-production of Walt Disney Television, Citadel, Craig and Neil Meron (Storyline Entertainment) and Whitney Houston's production company BrownHouse,[5] labeled as "Walt Disney and Whitney Houston present".

This was the third version of the musical; the original was broadcast in 1957 and there was another version in 1965.[6] This version is notable for its color-blind casting. According to news reports, "Disney spent roughly $12 million to produce Cinderella – more than three times the usual budget on a made-for-TV movie."[7][8] The cast is "multi-cultural...Every family is a racially blended family." For example, "Cinderella (Brandy, who is African-American), has a white stepmother,...a white stepsister,...and a [sic] African-American stepsister."[9]

Several songs were added to this version. "The Sweetest Sounds" from Rodgers' No Strings, was added, sung by Cinderella and the Prince. "There's Music in You," written by Rodgers and Hammerstein for the 1953 film Main Street to Broadway, was sung as the finale by the Fairy Godmother.[6][10]

The New York Times explains: "To show the stepmother as not just an evil harridan but the product of bitter experience, the team proposed "Falling in Love With Love," which Rodgers wrote with his first partner, Lorenz Hart, for The Boys from Syracuse...'We were pretty much against it until they cast it, and then we knew that Bernadette would be able to put a different kind of spin on it,' said the composer's daughter, Mary Rodgers. In the new show, Ms. Peters sings the song to her daughters, warning them not to confuse the emotional notion of love with the commercial concept of marriage. Shooting took place from June 23, 1997 to July 18, 1997.[11][12]"[8][10]

Origins and casting[edit]

Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella was the third version of the musical.[13][14] Rogers and Hammerstein originally wrote Cinderella as a musical exclusively for television starring Julie Andrews, which aired in 1957, the telecast was then remade in 1965 starring Lesley Ann Warren,[15][16] which was significantly modified from the original version.[17] This adaptation aired annually from from 1965 to 1972,[18] the idea to remake Cinderella for television a second time originated as early as 1992, at which time producers Craig and Neil Meron first approached the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization about the project.[18] Development was further inspired by the success of CBS' production of the stage musical Gypsy (1993) starring Bette Midler,[19] which is credited with reviving interest in the television musical genre.[20] The day after Gypsy's broadcast, Houston's agent contacted and Meron, who had also produced Gypsy, to inquire if they were interested in developing any upcoming projects starring the singer, to whom they suggested the adaptation of "Cinderella" with Houston cast in the title role as it was originally intended to be a star vehicle for the singer.[8][15] However, the project was continuously delayed, during which time CBS became disinterested in favor of other projects, while Houston herself aged to the point of which she no longer felt suitable for the role of Cinderella.[8]

After leaving CBC and relocating to Disney, Zadan and Meron re-introduced the project to Houston, suggesting that she play the role of Cinderella's Fairy Godmother instead,[8] for the lead role of Cinderella, Houston personally recommend her close friend, then 18-year-old singer Brandy.[8] Disney was interested in using the project to relaunch The Wonderful World of Disney in 1997, a long-time variety program which had been dormant before.[21] Whitney Houston signed on to the film, she was listed as producer and in the role of Cinderella. However, she later asked Brandy to audition for the role of Cinderella, saying "I'm already 33 years old, and I want you to play Cinderella [...] someone who probably had a lot more energy and who was Cinderella to me...". Brandy only agreed to do the part if Houston played her fairy godmother, because she was her "idol".[5][22] Brandy likened being hand-picked for the role by someone whom she considers to be her mentor to a real-life fairy tale.[23] Robert Iscove was enlisted as director.[18] The film was co-produced by Walt Disney Telefilms, Storyline Entertainment and Houston Productions;[18] Houston was retained as an executive producer, alongside producing partner Debra Martin Chase.[8] According to Zadan and Meron, Houston remained heavily involved in all of the film's production aspects despite being relegated to a supporting role, retaining approval over all creative elements, particularly the film's multiracial cast.[24] Having grown up like most watching mainly Caucasian actresses portray Cinderella, Houston felt that 1997 was "a good time" to finally have a woman of color cast as the titular character, claiming the choice to use a multi-cultural cast "was a joint decision" among the producers.[24] Zadan agreed that the film had been conceived as "multi-ethnic from the very beginning."[8] Mary Rodgers and James Hammerstein, relatives of the original composers, also approved this casting decision, with Mary maintaining that the production remains "true to the original" despite contemporary modifications to its cast and score,[24] and James describing the film as "a total scrambled gene pool" and "one of the nicest fantasies one can imagine.''[8] James also believes Hammerstein would have approved of the color-blind casting, claiming he would have asked why the process took as long as it did.[18] Casting the prince took longer, with Chase likening the process to searching for the individual whose foot fit the glass slipper.[13] Auditions were held in Los Angeles and New York. Several well-known performers auditioned for the role, including Wayne Brady. Antonio Sabato, Jr., Marc Anthony and Taye Diggs, the latter of whom was highly anticipated due to his starring role in Rent at the time.[13]

Bernadette Peters was cast as Cinderella's stepmother, becoming her second major villainous role after having previously starred as the Witch in the stage musical Into the Woods (1986).[25] Jason Alexander, who had been starring in the sitcom Seinfeld at the time, was cast as the prince's valet Lionel, an entirely new character created for the remake.[15] Victor Garber, who was cast as King Maximillian, also enjoyed the film's multicultural cast, explaining, "It's extraordinary. I'm married to Whoopi Goldberg and I have an Asian son."[26] Alexander agreed to play the role despite being paid significantly less than what he earns for a single episode of Seinfeld because he was interested in potentially playing the title role in an adaptation of the musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, to which Zadan and Meron own the film rights, and because he hoped that musicals would have a future based on the success of Cinderella.[8] Describing the project as "a big responsibility and a big opportunity", Alexander opined that should Cinderella fail to garner high ratings, the future of musical films could potentially be threatened,[8] the diversity of the cast prompted some members of the media to dub the film "rainbow 'Cinderella'."[19]

Instead of making the characters themselves more modern, Zadan opted to "contemporize the qualities of the characters" instead;[8] in a conscious decision to update the fairy tale for a more modern generation, screenwriter Robert L. Freeman sought to deconstruct the messages young girls and boys might interpret from previous versions of the fairy tale, explaining, "We didn’t want the message to be 'just wait to be rescued".[27] Although his teleplay retains the "cockeyed optimism" of the original upon which it is based, its characters are imbued with "but its characters are post-modern models of Oprah-fied in-touchness", according to The New York Times journalist Todd S. Purdum.[8] This theme applies to both Cinderella and the prince; while Cinderella pines for independence from her unkind stepfamily and actively disagrees with her stepmother's opinions about a woman's role in marriage, the prince protests the idea of being married to someone his parents choose on his behalf.[27] According to George Rodosthenous, author of The Disney Musical on Stage and Screen: Critical Approaches from 'Snow White' to 'Frozen', "traces of sexism" were removed from the script in favor of creating "a prince for a new era" while maintaining its "fundamental storyline".[28] Cinderella and the prince are also shown meeting and developing an interest in each other prior to the ball, and idea that would be reused in subsequent adaptations of the story,[27] despite being more similar to the original musical than the 1965 remake in style and structure, the script's "values and tone" have been updated, quickly earning approval from the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization.[18] Meanwhile, Houston's interpretation of the Fairy Godmother was adapted into more of a "worldly-wise older sister" to Cinderella, as opposed to the "regal maternal figure" that had been portrayed in previous adaptations of the story.[8]


Freeman's teleplay was 11 minutes longer than previous versions, offering several opportunities for new songs, some of which the producers felt were necessary.[28] Disney asked the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization to be as open about changes to the score as they had been about the script and cast.[18] Music producers Chris Montan and Arif Mardin were interested in combining "Broadway legit with Hollywood pop",[18] re-arranging the musical's original orchestration in favor of a more contemporary sound.[29] Although filmmakers are usually hesitant to interpolate songs from other sources into adaptations of Rogers and Hammerstein works, Ted Capin, President and Executive Director of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization,[16] challenged the producers of Cinderella to conceive "compelling reasons" via which they can incorporate new material into the remake,[30] allowing the filmmakers "the freedom they needed" on the condition that the additions remain consistent with the rest of the project.[18] Three songs not featured in previous versions of the musical were added to augment the film's score, each of which was borrowed from a different Rogers and Hammerstein work.[4][15][19][24] "The Sweetest Sounds", a duet Rogers wrote himself following Hammerstein's death for the 1962 musical No Strings was used to explore lead couple's early thoughts and relationship upon meeting each other for the first time in the town square,[8] performing separately until they unite.[28] The filmmakers found this song particularly easy to incorporate.[30]

Broadway veteran Bernadette Peters portrays Cinderella's stepmother. Borrowed from the musical The Boys from Syracuse (1938), the song "Falling in Love with Love" was used to develop the Stepmother's character.

"Falling in Love With Love", which Rogers wrote with lyricist Lorenz Hart for the musical The Boys from Syracuse (1938), was adapted into a song for Cinderella's stepmother, a character who seldom sings or expresses her innermost thoughts in previous adaptations of the fairy tale.[28][30] She advises her own daughters about love and relationships,[30] warning them not to confuse love with marriage.[8] The filmmakers wanted to prove that the Stepmother was not simply "an evil harridan" but rather a "product of bitter experience",[8] despite concerns that Hart's "biting" lyrics would sound too abrasive against the rest of the musical's score, James, Hamerstein's son, was very much open to the idea.[30] While Mary, Rogers' daughter, was initially against using "Falling in Love With Love" in the film, she relented once Peters had been cast as the Stepmother,[30] feeling confident that the Broadway veteran would be able to "put a different kind of spin on it."[8] According to Peters, the song demonstrates the Stepmother's disappointment with her own life, explaining why she has become increasingly embittered and jealous of Cinderella.[8] Performed while they prepare for the prince's ball,[31] the song was offered "a driving, up-tempo arrangement" for Peters.[32] Although its original melody retained, the music producers adapted the waltz into a "frenetic Latin-tinged number in duple meter".[28] The filmmakers agreed that Alexander deserved a full-scale musical number of his own due to his experience as a musical theatre performer, and decided to combine the Steward's "Your Majesties" with the Town Crier's "The Prince is Giving a Ball" into a large, elaborate musical sequence,[30] as this concept had not been used in Rogers and Hammerstein's original musical, Broadway lyricist Fred Ebb, a friend of choreographer Rob Marshall, was recruited to contribute original lyrics to the new arrangement "that melded stylistically with the Hammerstein originals."[30] Despite the fact that Hammerstein's will states that such alterations to his work are prohibited,[33] James believes his father would have enjoyed Ebb's contributions as the songwriter had been known to collaborate with new lyricists.[30]

With Houston cast as the Fairy Godmother, the role was expanded to become more musical, including having her ope the film with a slower rendition of "Impossible".[28] Houston opted to perform the film's songs simply as opposed to in her signature pop, R&B or gospel styles, elaborating, "These songs were written 40 years ago and they've lasted for a reason."[18] Although the producers agreed that Houston's Fairy Godmother would perform the film's closing number,[30] selecting a song suitable for Houston's vocal abilities proved a unique challenge for the producers since the original musical had not been written this way.[8][30] Few remaining songs in Rogers and Hammerstein's repertoire were considered appropriate until they re-discovered "There's Music in You", a then little-known song originally performed by actress Mary Martin in the film Main Street to Broadway (1953),[8] in which the songwriters play themselves writing the song for Martin's character to perform in an upcoming fictional musical.[17][30] Although the song was covered by singer Bing Crosby, "There's Music in You" remained largely obscure for 40 years until it was re-discovered by the producers in 1997,[26] despite being selected to accompany the film's "happily ever after" finale during Cinderella and the prince's wedding scene,[33] the song originally lacked a bridge to compliment Houston's vocal climax, so it was combined with a segment of "One Foot, Other Foot" from Rogers and Hammerstein's musical Allegro (1947).[8][33] Meron believes that this adjustment made the composition resemble "a 100 percent Rodgers and Hammerstein song that sounds like a new Whitney Houston record",[8] a sentiment with which Broadway Musicals: A Hundred Year History author David H. Lewis agreed, calling it "a potential pop hit."[33] Capin considered the song to be a "perfect" addition to the original score because, when combined with the opening number "The Sweetest Sounds", it "bookends Cinderella with songs about music" while demonstrating "how Cinderella herself has grown" over the course of the film.[30] Rob Marshall choreographed the musical numbers.[29]

Brandy found the recording process "challenging" because the film's songs were different than anything she had recorded before, explaining that she was nervous as her "voice wasn’t fully developed, and even if it was fully developed, I wasn’t gonna be on Whitney’s level", at times struggling to determine "which voice to use."[23] Houston, whom Brandy wanted to impress, would encourage the singer to to "Sing from your gut" as opposed to singing from her chest in order to get her to sing louder,[23] the studio originally planned to release an original soundtrack featuring the film's music.[18] However, this idea was abandoned due to conflicts between Houston and Brandy's respective record labels.[32]


With a budget of $12 million, Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella ranks is one of the most expensive films ever made for television.[21] Brandy learned how to waltz for the role,[23] the film's costumes were designed by costume designer Ellen Mirojnick. In order to offer Cinderella's ballgown a "magical look", Mirojnick combined blue and white detailing into the dress, in addition to incorporating a peplum, an element that been absent from most previous interpretations of the dress;[34] in addition to Cinderella herself, Mirojnick costumed all the female guests attending the prince's ball in different shades of blue, ranging from aqua to sapphire.[26] The filming of Cinderella took place over a 28-day period,[19] primarily on stages 22 and 26 at Sony Picture Studios in Culver City, California,[24] which had once been the location of MGM Studios during what is considered to be "the golden age of the movie musical."[18]

The sets were designed by Randy Ser.[18] Prince Christopher's palace was built in the same location as the yellow brick road in the film The Wizard of Oz (1939), thus the palace's courtyard bricks in Cinderella were pained yellow in tribute to the film.[24] Mary and James visited the set regularly,[24] as well as Chapin.[18] During a visit in July, approximately midway through filming, they previewed early footage of the film and met the cast.[18] Haling the sets as "the most incredible" ones she had ever seen, Mary described Brandy as "a sweet, wonderful young woman ... I love the fact that millions of children are going to hear her sing 'I can be whatever I want to be.' What better message could we send than that?"[18]


The film's impending premiere coincided with the launch of the official Rogers and Hammerstein website, which streamed segments from the upcoming broadcast via RealVideo from October 27 to November 3, 1997,[25] these segments were interpolated with various scenes from the original 1965 version.[25] A screening of the film was hosted at the Sony Lincoln Square Theatre in New York on October 27, 2017.[26] Most of the film's cast – Brandy, Cox, Garber, Houston, Desselle and Montalban – was present at the screening, albeit Goldberg and Alexander who were unable to attend.[26]

Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella premiered on November 2, 1997 during The Wonderful World of Disney on ABC. The telecast aired to 60 million viewers who watched at least a portion of the film,[15] making television history by becoming the most-watched television musical in several years, earning more viewers than 1993's Gypsy.[20] According to the Nielsen ratings, Cinderella averaged a 22.3 rating and 31 Nielsen share (although it was originally estimated that the program had earned only an 18.8 rating),[15][35] which is believed to have been bolstered by the film appealing towards women and adults between the ages of 18 and 49.[15] Translated, this means that 31 percent of televisions in the United States watched the premiere,[20] while 23 million different households tuned into the broadcast.[15] Surprisingly, 70 percent of Cinderella's total viewership that evening consisted of females under the age of 18,[20][36] the broadcast attracted a particularly high number of younger audience members, including children, teenagers and young adults, making it the television season's most popular family show, according to The New York Times.[35]

In addition to being the most-watched program of the evening, Cinderella remained the most-watched program of the entire week, scoring higher ratings than consistently popular shows ER and Seinfeld.[20] The film became ABC's most-watched Sunday night program in more than 10 years,[37][38] as well as the most-watched program during its allotted two-hour 7:00 to 9:00 pm time slot on the network in 13 years.[20][15][35] AllMusic biographer Steve Huey attributes the ratings success of the film to its "star power and integrated cast".[39] Additionally, the popularity of Cinderella boosted the ratings of ABC's television film Before Women Had Wings, which premiered following the program and consequently earned a score of 19.[35] ABC re-aired the program on February 14, 1999 (Valentines' Day),[21] which aired to 15 million viewers.[40]

Home media[edit]

Audiences soon began to demand a quick home video release, which the studio soon began working on.[36] Rogers and Hammerstein's Cinderella was released on VHS February 10, 1998, which became the highest-selling home video release of any made-for-television film at that time.[37][38] By February 1999, the video had sold more than two million copies,[21] the film was released to DVD on February 4, 2003 by Buena Vista Home Entertainment.


Critical response[edit]

Playbill's Rebecca Paller reviewed the preview as "overflowing with star performances, lavish sets" and "lush rainbow-hued costumes," describing its songs as "sound[ing] fresher than ever."[26] According to Paller, the preview was more similar to that of a Broadway preview than a film screening as the audience continuously applauded at the end of every song.[26] Praising the film's sets, costumes, Marshall's choreography and Freeman's script, Paller concluded that "that everything about the TV play worked", describing it as equally memorable for both the child and adult audience members who attended.[26] Cinderella premiered to lukewarm reviews from most television critics;[20][41] some purist fans were less receptive towards the contemporary arrangements of Rogers and Hammerstein's material.[42]

Theatre historian John Kenrick called it a "hideous desecration" of the musical.[43] Caryn James, writing in the New York Times praised the performers: Montalban has "an old-fashioned luxurious voice"; Jason Alexander "provides comic relief"; Goldberg "winningly blends royal dignity with motherly meddling"; Peters "brings vigor and sly comedy". She commented that the musical "was always a pumpkin that never turned into a glittering coach... the songs are lesser Rodgers and Hammerstein... it doesn't take that final leap into pure magic. Often charming and sometimes ordinary, this is a cobbled-together Cinderella for the moment, not the ages." Also she stated that lead actress Brandy "As Disney's Cinderella for the 90's is amazingly good." She also addressed the multi-racial cast: "There is no cause to wonder why one stepsister is black and one white. The entire kingdom is blissfully multiethnic, with a black queen in Ms. Goldberg, a white king in Victor Garber and the Philippine-born Paolo Montalban as their son. (The fact that this racial utopia exists in a fairy tale only emphasizes its distance from reality.)"[44] Other critics praised the presentation. The Atlanta Journal and Constitution wrote: "Grade: A, a version both timely and timeless."[45] The San Diego Union-Tribune agreed: "this version has much to recommend it."[46]

In addition to receiving praise for its overall craftsmanship and musical format, critics commended the film for its use of a multiracial cast.[20] Describing the film as a "Short, sweet and blindingly brightly colored" adaptation of the fairy tale, TV Guide film critic Maitland McDonagh wrote that Cinderella is "overall ... a pleasant introduction to a classic musical, tweaked to catch the attention of contemporary youngsters." McDonagh wrote that the color-blind casting of the other characters spares the film from suffering potentially "disturbing overtones" resulting from a images of an African-American Cinderella being mistreated by her Caucasian stepmother.[42] Despite calling the film's supporting cast "unusually strong", particularly Peters, Garber and Alexander, the critic believes Brandy and Houston acted too much like "versions of themselves with which fans are familiar" to truly be considered compelling performances,[42] for Entertainment Weekly, Denise Lanctot praised the musical's cast, choreography, "soaring melodies and witty lyrics", but found that she was underwhelmed by Brandy's performance, describing it as "oddly vacuous". Lanctot wrote that the singer "is Barbie-doll blank and her hoarse voice strains to lyric-soprano heights." However, she called Montalban's prince "perfectly charming" and "The real fairy tale".[4] Similarly, while praising the performances of Houston, Montalban, Alexander and Bernadette Peters, People's Terry Kelleher felt that Brandy's voice was noticeably inferior to Houston's and "lack[ed] the vocal command and emotive power to put over" the film's "soaring, sentimental ballads", although the critic admitted that her acting was "fine".[47]

In its year-end edition, TV Guide ranked the program the best television special of 1997.[20]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Rogers & Hammerstein's Cinderella was nominated for seven Emmy Awards,[48] including Outstanding Variety Special.[38]


Bill Carter of The New York Times predicted that the success of the broadcast "will mean more musicals for television, probably as early as next year."[36] Similarly, Bert Fink of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization said that program's ratings and success are likely to "have a salubrious effect on" the future of television musicals.[15] Walt Disney Television president Charles Hirschhorn received the film's success as an indication that "there is a huge family audience out there for quality programming, expressing an interest in eventually "fill[ing] in the ground between feature animated musicals and Broadway";[36] in addition to confirming that the network will be airing the program the following year, Cinderella's producers immediately began researching other musical projects to potentially remake for the Wonderful World of Disney following the success of the broadcast, with the studio hoping to produce between one and two similar television events per year,[36] announcing that songwriter Stephen Schwartz had already begun working on a musical adaptation of Pinocchio.[15] According to Zadan, Cinderella's success "helped secure a future for musicals in the 'Wonderful World of Disney' slot", whose film company Storyline Entertainment began developing musical projects for Disney shortly afterward, including Annie;[21] in his book The Cambridge Companion to the Musical, author Nicholas Everett recognized Cinderella among important television musicals that "renewed interest in the genre" during the 1990s.[31]

Brandy is considered to be the first African American to have been cast in the role of Cinderella.[49] Brandy's performance earned her the titles "the first Cinderella of color", "the first black Cinderella" and "the first African-American princess".[23][41][50] According to Ruthie Fierberg of Playbill, Brandy's performance "immortalized the role on screen".[51] Following the success of the film, its producers, the Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization and Disney began discussing the possibility of adapting the production into a touring stage musical, potentially aiming for 2000 or 2001. However, the idea never came to fruition.[32] Various elements from Freeman's script were used in the 2000 national tour of Cinderella starring, which is considered by Variety to be the first time the musical was adapted into a "Broadway-style production with a book clearly designed for the stage", including having Cinderella and the prince meet during one of the opening scenes.[52] A stage adaptation of the musical premiered on Broadway in 2013, in which several songs used in the 1997 film are re-used, including "There's Music in You",[53] performed in similar fashion by the Fairy Godmother.[17] Like the film, the producers of the stage production have always employed color-bling casting; in 2014, actress Keke Palmer was cast as Cinderella on Broadway, becoming the first black actress to occupy the role in the production. Identifying Brandy as one of her inspirations for the role,[54] Palmer explained, "I feel like the reason I'm able to do this is definitely because Brandy did it on TV".[55]

Musical numbers[edit]

  1. "Prologue" – Whitney Houston
  2. "Overture" – Orchestra
  3. "The Sweetest Sounds" – Brandy & Paolo Montalbán
  4. "The Prince is Giving a Ball"/"Your Majesties" – Jason Alexander, Whoopi Goldberg, Bernadette Peters, Veanne Cox, Natalie Desselle-Reid
  5. "In My Own Little Corner" – Brandy
  6. "Falling in Love with Love" – Bernadette Peters, Veanne Cox & Natalie Desselle-Reid
  7. "In My Own Little Corner" (reprise) – Brandy
  8. "Impossible" – Brandy & Whitney Houston
  9. "It's Possible" – Brandy & Whitney Houston
  10. "Ten Minutes Ago" – Brandy & Paolo Montalbán
  11. "Stepsisters' Lament" – Veanne Cox & Natalie Desselle-Reid
  12. "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?" – Paolo Montalbán & Brandy
  13. "A Lovely Night" – Brandy, Veanne Cox, Natalie Desselle-Reid & Bernadette Peters
  14. "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?" (reprise) – Whoopi Goldberg & Paolo Montalbán
  15. "Finale Ultimo" – Whitney Houston
  16. "There's Music in You" – Whitney Houston


Outstanding Art Direction for a Variety or Music Program (Winner)
Outstanding Choreography (nomination)
Outstanding Costume Design for a Variety or Music Program (nomination)
Outstanding Directing for a Variety or Music Program (nomination)
Outstanding Hairstyling for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special (nomination)
Outstanding Music Direction (nomination)
Outstanding Variety, Music or Comedy Special (nomination)
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Television Movie or Mini-Series – Whoopi Goldberg (nomination)
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Television Movie or Mini-Series – Brandy (nomination)
Outstanding Television Movie or Mini-Series (nomination)
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television – Jason Alexander (nomination)
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Mini-Series or Motion Picture Made for Television – Bernadette Peters (nomination)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (1997)". BFI. Alternative titles – Cinderella 
  2. ^ "Ellen Mirojnick Biography". Film Reference. Retrieved July 11, 2018. Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (also known as Cinderella) 
  3. ^ "Peters, Bernadette 1948–". Retrieved July 16, 2018. Cinderella's stepmother, Cinderella (also known as Rodgers & Hammerstein "Cinderella"), ABC, 1997. 
  4. ^ a b c Lanctot, Denise (February 13, 1998). "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved July 16, 2018. 
  5. ^ a b "Whitney Houston and Brandy Star in TV Movie 'Cinderella'"Jet, November 3, 1997, pp. 44–47
  6. ^ a b "Background On Rodgers & Hammerstein’s 'Cinderella'" Archived August 24, 2010, at the Wayback Machine., accessed February 15, 2011
  7. ^ Herald Wire Services. "Cinderella Conjures Up High Ratings For ABC", The Miami Herald, November 5, 1997, LIVING; p.3D
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w Purdum, Todd S. (November 2, 1997). "Television; The Slipper Still Fits, Though the Style Is New". The New York Times. Retrieved July 12, 2018. 
  9. ^ Ford, Elizabeth and Mitchell, Deborah C."Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella Redux (1997)" Archived October 12, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. The Makeover in Movies: Before and After in Hollywood Films, 1941–2002, McFarland, 2004, ISBN 0-7864-1721-8, pp. 45–47
  10. ^ a b Fink, Bert. "Background on Rodgers and Hammerstein's 'Cinderella' " Archived April 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine., accessed November 13, 2013
  11. ^ Fleming, Michael (June 20, 1997). "ABC stages 'Cinderella'". Archived from the original on December 30, 2017. 
  12. ^ "It's Possible: An Oral History of 1997's "Cinderella"". November 2, 2017. Archived from the original on December 30, 2017. 
  13. ^ a b c "Brandy Norwood, Bernadette Peters & More Look Back on Twenty Years Since CINDERELLA". Broadway World. November 2, 2017. Retrieved July 16, 2018. 
  14. ^ Hischak, Thomas S. (2007). The Rodgers and Hammerstein Encyclopedia. United States: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9780313341403 – via Google Books. 
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Gans, Andrew; Lefkowitz, David (November 5, 1997). "TV's Cinderella Turns In Royal Ratings Performance". Playbill. Retrieved July 12, 2018. 
  16. ^ a b Byrd, Craig (March 25, 2015). "Curtain Call: Ted Chapin Makes Sure Cinderella Has a Ball". Los Angeles. Retrieved July 13, 2018. 
  17. ^ a b c Haun, Harry (March 4, 2013). "Playbill on Opening Night: Cinderella; The Very Best Foot Forward". Playbill. Retrieved July 13, 2018. 
  18. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "Ring Out The Bells, Sing Out The News: Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella Returns To Television". Rogers and Hammerstein. October 1, 1997. Retrieved July 13, 2018. 
  19. ^ a b c d Stewart, Bhob. "Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella (1997)". AllMovie. Retrieved July 11, 2018. ... this 1997 multicultural version (sometimes referred to as the "rainbow Cinderella") 
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i "It's Possible: 60 Million Viewers Go To The Ball With Cinterella". Rogers and Hammerstein. January 1, 1998. Retrieved January 11, 2018. CINDERELLA scored with the reviews too ... Amidst bravos for the work itself, and adulation for the TV musical form, a quiet, but unmistakable roar of approval also greeted this newest remake for telling its fairy tale with a ""color-blind,"" multi-cultural cast. 
  21. ^ a b c d e Jones, Kenneth; Gans, Andrew; Lefkowitz, David (February 12, 1999). "Impossible? 'Cinderella' Producers Hope Valentine's Day Rebroadcast Hits Big". Playbill. Retrieved July 17, 2018. 
  22. ^ A Cinderella Story Featurette: Hosted by Bernadette Peters (Available on the DVD)
  23. ^ a b c d e Josephs, Brian (August 21, 2012). "Brandy Tells All: The Stories Behind Her Classic Records". Complex. Retrieved July 17, 2018. 
  24. ^ a b c d e f g Archerd, Army (July 11, 1997). "'Cinderella' evokes old H'w'd magic". Variety. Retrieved July 11, 2018. 
  25. ^ a b c Gans, Andrew; Lefkowitz, David (October 28, 1997). "Bernadette Peters will star in a new production of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, Cinderella, to be aired on ABC-TV Nov. 2". Playbill. Retrieved July 13, 2018. 
  26. ^ a b c d e f g h Paller, Rebecca (October 28, 1997). "Cinderella Screening: A Star Sapphire Evening". Playbill. Retrieved July 13, 2018. 
  27. ^ a b c Jacobs, Matthew (March 20, 2015). "How Modern Cinderella Adaptations Have Given The Tale's Outdated Feminism A Makeover". HuffPost. Retrieved July 11, 2018. 
  28. ^ a b c d e f Rodosthenous, George (2017). The Disney Musical on Stage and Screen: Critical Approaches from 'Snow White' to 'Frozen'. United Kingdom: Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 87–88. ISBN 9781474234184 – via Google Books. ['Faling in Love With Love']'s presence gave the previously songless Stepmother ... something to sing. 
  29. ^ a b Hischak, Thomas S. (2008). The Oxford Companion to the American Musical. United Kingdom: Oxford University Press. p. 153. ISBN 9780195335330 – via Google Books. 
  30. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m October 1, 1997. "Adding More To Cinderella's Score? It's Possible!". Rodgers & Hammerstein. Retrieved July 11, 2018. 
  31. ^ a b Everett, Nicholas (2002). The Cambridge Companion to the Musical. United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. p. 164. ISBN 9780521796392 – via Google Books. 
  32. ^ a b c Jones, Kenneth (August 30, 1999). "TV's Hit "Cinderella" Musical May Waltz to the Stage". Playbill. Retrieved July 16, 2018. 
  33. ^ a b c d Lewis, David H. (2012). Broadway Musicals: A Hundred Year History. United States: McFarland. p. 181. ISBN 9780786481149 – via Google Books. 
  34. ^ "Cinderella's Gown Throughout the Decades – Brandy Norwood in Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella". Marie Claire. March 14, 2014. Retrieved July 11, 2018. 
  35. ^ a b c d "'Cinderella' Attracts a Huge Audience". The New York Times. November 4, 1997. Sources differ somewhat; The New York Times and Playbill claim that the broadcast was the time slot's most-watched in 13 years, while Rogers and Hammerstein's claims 14. Retrieved July 12, 2018. 
  36. ^ a b c d e Carter, Bill (November 5, 1997). "TV Notes; Happy Ending For 'Cinderella'". The New York Times. Retrieved July 12, 2018. In one especially striking statistic, the show attracted 70 percent of the girls under the age of 18 watching television on Sunday night. 
  37. ^ a b Otfinoski, Steven (2010). African Americans in the Performing Arts. United States: Infobase Publishing. p. 109. ISBN 9781438128559 – via Google Books. 
  38. ^ a b c "Get to Know Whitney Houston". Retrieved July 17, 2018. 
  39. ^ Huey, Steve. "Brandy – Biography by Steve Huey". AllMusic. Retrieved July 17, 2018. 
  40. ^ "Show History". Cinderella. R&H Theatricals. Archived from the original on August 24, 2010. Retrieved 2009-01-29. 
  41. ^ a b "List of All Cinderella Movies: A History 1899 to 2015". 2015. Retrieved July 17, 2018. The musical was well received by viewers ... Critics, however, were rather lukewarm 
  42. ^ a b c McDonagh, Maitland (1997). "Cinderella". TV Guide. Retrieved July 16, 2018. Musical purists dislike this film's pop-soul rearrangement of the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein score 
  43. ^ Television Reviews Archived September 23, 2010, at the Wayback Machine., accessed August 11, 2009
  44. ^ James, Caryn. "The Glass Slipper Fits With a 90's Conscience", The New York Times, October 31, 1997, p. E29
  45. ^ Kloer, Phil. "Cinderella combines best of old and new", The Atlanta Journal and Constitution, November 2, 1997, p. 01K
  46. ^ Laurence, Robert P. "A girl, a prince, a ball, a slipper: Don't be too demanding, enjoy it", The San Diego Union-Tribune, November 2, 1997, p. TV WEEK-6
  47. ^ Kelleher, Terry (November 3, 1997). "Picks and Pans Review: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella". People. Retrieved July 17, 2018. 
  48. ^ "Musical Notes". Rogers and Hammerstein. October 1, 1998. Retrieved July 17, 2018. 
  49. ^ Addams-Rosa, Jelani (August 4, 2014). "Keke Palmer Makes History Again As The First Black Cinderella On Broadway!". Seventeen. Retrieved July 17, 2018. 
  50. ^ Franklin, Krystal (October 12, 2017). "'Cinderella' Turns 20: A Look Back At Brandy & Whitney Houston's On-Screen Relationship". TV One. Retrieved July 17, 2018. 
  51. ^ Fierberg, Ruthie (June 14, 2017). "Will Cinderella's Keke Palmer Return to Broadway?". Playbill. Retrieved July 17, 2018. 
  52. ^ Handelman, Jay (December 3, 2000). "Cinderella". Variety. Retrieved June 14, 2018. 
  53. ^ Clarke, David (June 4, 2013). "Rodgers + Hammerstein's Cinderella (Original Broadway Cast Recording) Shimmers with Opulent Romance and Radiantly Lush Orchestrations". Houston Press. Retrieved July 16, 2018. 
  54. ^ McDonald, Soraya Nadia (August 5, 2014). "Keke Palmer will play first black Cinderella on Broadway". The Washington Post. Retrieved July 17, 2018. 
  55. ^ "Keke Palmer to be Broadway's first black Cinderella". CBS News. August 4, 2014. Retrieved July 17, 2018. 

External links[edit]