Some people get to go to a pantomime at this time of year. Me, I love pantos, I love the atmosphere at them and I love the fun you just tend to have even at the most corny of jokes. Unfortunately, being a poor struggling student means that getting to a pantomime can often be hard to do. In times like these, I tend to look to whatever ones end up on the television. Now, this isn’t technically a pantomime, but I only ever see it at this time of year and it brings the same grins as a panto so… let’s talk about Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, with particular attention paid to the 1997 television movie production.
If you know anything about Rodgers and Hammerstein, it’s probably either Okalaholma or the Sound of Music, maybe South Pacific. They were the biggest crowd winners for the influential musical writing pair – Sound of Music still shows sing along versions every so often in some places! Cinderella has the bonus of being their only musical that was initally written for the television, and originally broadcast in 1957, starring Julie Andrews in the titular role.
The musical follows the basic Cinderella plot. Girl has an evil stepmother and two wicked stepsisters who have made her into a servant in her own house. The local Prince is giving a ball to find his bride – an odd practice for royalty we have to assume – and Cinderella’s fairy godmother comes along to help her go to the ball. She meets the Prince, they fall in love, but midnight approaches and the magic cannot last past that fated hour. Cinderella flees the ball, leaving only a glass slipper for the Prince to find her with. A search is made of the Kingdom, and you already know that it all ends happily ever after for our girl Cinders.
Now, as briefly mentioned, there is in fact more than one version of this musical. The three main versions would be the 1957 starring Julie Andrews in the titular role, the 1965 starring Lesley Ann Warren in the titular role and Celeste Holm as the Fairy Godmother, and the 1997 starring Brandy in the titular role, and Whitney Huston as the Fairy Godmother. Personally, having seen all three versions, I have to admit they are all brilliant in their own ways. However, I am personally most attached to the 1997 version being the version that I saw first when I was a child. And yes, I am a 90s kid, there’s a hint at my age right there.
This version was produced by Walt Disney – they keep turning up in this webzine, how odd – and featured an all star cast which included Broadway legend Bernadette Peters as the Evil Stepmother. And yes, this was during the point where she hadn’t aged for, like, 30 years. She provided with a very glamourous Stepmother, one who had become bitter by the failures of the romantic nature of love, and saw marriage now only as a business transaction. All shown in the song added for this version “Falling in Love with Love”, originally from The Boys from Syracruse, which was really just added to give Peters a chance to show off her awesome voice, and I thank them for it.
The 1997 version came out during the height of the so-called rainbow casting period, and personally? I … don’t see it as a deterrent to the movie. Yes, people who are meant to be related may not look so, but at the same time you’ve got Whoopi Goldberg being a Queen and ruling the hell out of her country, so your argument is invalid, I tell thee, invalid! Okay, so not the best of reasons but really, the mutli racial casting is to the movie’s credit; it will stick in your mind in the best possible way and Brandy’s Cinderella is really just adorable. And Huston provides with the most glam Fairy Godmother ever. I call her the Glam-Mother.
Musically, this is one of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s most memorable. All featured songs are ridiculously catchy, and able to worm their way into your head with little effort. You will remember these songs for so long afterwards, and you’ll catch yourself humming the melodies.
All in all, it’s a version of Cinderella that makes for enchanting viewing. If you get the chance to watch it, do. Any of the versions really.
Z McAspurren (How many different tellings of Cinderella are actually out there?)