Seen on ABC's Wonderful World of Disney, this $12-million production is the only musical Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote for television. The CBS-TV original, with 21-year-old Julie Andrews in the title role and Edie Adams as the Fairy Godmother, played on live television March 31, 1957 to TV's largest audience ever to that date (107-million viewers). That historic production, captured on kinescope, can still be seen today on library monitors at the Museum of Television & Radio in New York and Los Angeles. Hammerstein died in 1960 and did not get to see 18-year-old Lesley Ann Warren as Cinderella in the February 22, 1965 restaged production, repeated annually on CBS until 1977 and later made available on videotape from CBS/Fox Video and Facets Multimedia. Added to the 1965 show was "Loneliness of Evening", a song actually written for South Pacific but cut before the Broadway opening. Running a half-hour longer, this third interpretation premiered November 2, 1997. Filmed over a 28-day period, it stars Brandy Norwood as Cinderella and Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother, with Bernadette Peters as the Stepmother, Whoopi Goldberg as the Queen (wearing $60 million worth of borrowed Harry Winston jewelry), Paolo Montalban as the Prince, and Jason Alexander as the Prince's steward, Lionel. Scripter Robert L. Freedman provided a rewrite of the original Oscar Hammerstein book, and three other Richard Rodgers songs were added to the existing score: "There's Music in You" (from the 1953 movie musical Main Street to Broadway), "The Sweetest Sounds" (a Brandy/Montalban duet), and "Falling in Love with Love". Originally set in motion as a follow-up to the highly successful TV Gypsy (1993) with Bette Midler, this 1997 multicultural version (sometimes referred to as the "rainbow Cinderella") was years in the making, since it was initiated in 1994 when Houston joined executive producers Craig Zadan and Neil Meron (the team responsible for the TV Gypsy).
Multi-ethnic cast modernizes classic fairy tale.