How Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” came to be

Monday, January 7, 2019

Although Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella premiered on Broadway for the very first time in 2013, this Rodgers and Hammerstein musical has found success on the small screen and in productions around the world for the last 50 years.

Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella is the only musical of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s that was writ­ten for television. It was largely based on Charles Per­rault’s version of the tale, entitled Cendrillon. Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella for CBS, starring Julie Andrews in the title role. With Ralph Nelson as director, it premiered on CBS on March 31, 1957, and was seen by over 100 mil­lion people, or about 60% of the US population at the time.

Staged versions of the musical began with a premiere at the London Coliseum by Harold Fielding on December 18, 1958. Other versions of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella continued to play in US the­aters after 1961. CBS decided to take a stab at another television version, with Richard Rodgers as executive producer. Rodgers wanted to stay truer to Perrault’s classic, but for the most part, the music and story were retained from the original. It premiered on Febru­ary 22, 1965. The New York City Opera produced the musical in 1993, 1995 and 2004 with such renowned performers as Eartha Kitt and Dick Van Patten. One of the most famous tours of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella occurred in the US in 2000-2001.

In 1997, Walt Disney Productions released a re­make of Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella star­ring Brandy as Cinderella. It premiered on November 2, 1997 and had great success, with about 60 mil­lion viewers tuning in. The Disney production was applauded for its diversity in casting; the royal fam­ily was comprised of an African-American mother, a Caucasian father and an Asian-American Prince. This innovative choice showed the universality of the story, continuing to make it accessible to more audiences.

Rodgers + Hammerstein’s Cinderella made its Broadway debut in March of 2013, featuring new twists and turns by writer Douglas Carter Beane, direction by Mark Brokaw and choreography by Josh Rhodes. The National Tour of the Broadway production launched October 2014.

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