weber_dubois22: (AllisonxJoe)
[personal profile] weber_dubois22 posting in [community profile] disney_pocs
Rodger's and Hammerstein's 1997 remake of their 1957 Cinderella musical has seen something of a resurgence of modest popularity with the untimely passing of songstress Whitney Huston (whom I'll miss forever, like many others). The film debuted on television via "The Wonderful World of Disney" and was one of the block's highest rated [musical] films (or shows) at the time. This particular rendition of Cinderella is noted for its diverse "rainbow" cast, musical numbers and equally colorful sets and costumes.

One of the things I've always enjoyed about the film (aside from some of its musical numbers) that the 1950 film lacked was the empathesis of action and inaction with the protagonist (or "dreamers") and making things happen as opposed to remaining passive and allowing emotional or verbal abuse to continue, even if it doesn't technically fire on all cylinders with the message. Brandy makes a wonderfully charming and bright-eyed Cinderella and Whitney Huston is the best Fairy Godmother yet, as a stern, but encouraging guardian angel. The movie will celebrate its 15th anniversary November 2nd, 2012 since premiering on television in 1997. I can't believe they never released a soundtrack for this (unless I'm mistaken).

Product Description: A prince, a pumpkin, a glass slipper ... history's most enduring fairy tale returns with a thoroughly modern twist! Beautifully produced and featuring an all-star cast, RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN'S CINDERELLA shimmers to life in the most spectacular production ever of the classic musical -- including three additional Rodgers & Hammerstein songs exclusive to this special Disney presentation! Pop sensation Brandy (TV's MOESHA) stars as the beautiful Cinderella, who suffers the torment of her wicked stepmother (Bernadette Peters) and spoiled stepsisters. Cinderella dreams of the impossible -- going to the ball and dancing with the prince. Her impossible dream is realized when her fairy godmother (Whitney Houston) teaches her that with positive thinking and belief in yourself, "impossible things happen every day!" Also starring Jason Alexander (TV's SEINFELD) and Whoopi Goldberg (SISTER ACT), Disney's sparkling new version of RODGERS & HAMMERSTEIN'S CINDERELLA promises to be an instant classic. Now you can relive the magic anytime you wish!

Sensible people certainly wouldn't have decided to remake Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Cinderella." After all, the original (which had starred Julie Andrews and had been broadcast live back in March of 1957) had already been remade once (Here's a fun factoid for all you Disney fans out there: It was Lesley Ann Warren's performance in the 1965 remake that convinced Walt to hire this Broadway ingenue to appear in "The Happiest Millionaire"). So what was the point of remaking Rodgers and Hammerstein's only musical for television yet again?

But Craig Zadan and Neil Meron aren't exactly sensible people. As the talented gentleman behind Storyline Entertainment, Craig and Neil had just served up the acclaimed 1993 TV movie of "Gypsy" when they got a call from Whitney Houston's agent. Who asked if Zadan & Neil would be interested in doing something something similar with the 6-time Grammy winner.

What Craig and Neil proposed was having Whitney play the title role in a lavish new TV movie version of "Cinderella." Which would be presented on CBS in 1994.

Ms. Houston thought that this was a terrific idea. But first she had to honor all of her previous commitments. There were albums to record, world tours to head off on, feature films like "Waiting to Exhale" & "The Preacher's Wife" to appear in. But as 1994 became 1995, and 1995 then gave way to 1996 ... CBS kind of lost interest in making this TV movie. More to the point, as Whitney herself said it in a November 1997 interview with the New York Times:

"I got married and pregnant and stuff, and basically I didn't feel like Cinderella anymore."

But because Zadan & Meron pride themselves on being " ... daft and dewy-eyed dopes," they weren't willing to give up on remaking Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella." Which is why -- after Storyline Entertainment had set up shop at Walt Disney Studios -- Craig and Neil went back to Whitney and then proposed, rather than playing the title role, Ms. Houston transition to playing a fierce version of Cinderella's fairy godmother. Not to mention executive-producing this project for ABC.

Brandy Norwood (Cinderella) & Paolo Montalban (The Prince)

This sounded like a far better fit for Ms. Houston. So -- working with Zadan, Meron and her Brownhouse Production partner, Debra Martin Chase -- Whitney mounted a $12 million reimagining of this TV musical which featured an A list cast (among the performers who appeared in "Cinderella" were Brandy, Whoopi Goldberg, Jason Alexander, Bernadette Peters and Victor Garber) as well as incredibly rich production values.

The end result for a hugely successful TV show. More than 60 million viewers tuned in for "Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella," making this episode of "The Wonderful World of Disney" the top-rated television program for that week. And when awards season finally rolled around, this Storyline Entertainment / Brownhouse production was nominated for 7 different Emmys and eventually took home the award for Outstanding Art Direction for a Variety or Music Program.

Craig Zadan recounted in a brief interview with BroadwayWorld --
[...]"Neil (Meron) and I worked closely with Whitney on the TV production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella and the movie was a magical experience. We had a reunion with Whitney last year in Atlanta and she seemed to be in a great place emotionally and we subsequently began developing a new film for her which we had hoped to do later this year. It's such a tragedy and we're so heartbroken at this terrible loss, both personally and professionally. We will miss her a lot." [SOURCE]

A word from Martin Erskine (one of the musical staff...)
Just a little note on the comments stating that this version "was not what R & H had in mind":
1. Oscar Hammerstein was passionately against racism, (note his song "Carefully Taught" in South Pacific) and I was told by his daughter, Alice, at the premiere that he would have been overjoyed with this production.

2. Early on in the process of re-realizing this score, I felt skeptical when I was asked to tailor the music to the talents of R. & B. recording artists. In the midst of production, I received correspondence from both the R. & H. organization, as well as from Mary Rodgers herself (Richard's daughter) that they were "ecstatic" at the updated sound of the score. "My hero," were her words to me upon being introduced to her.

Imagine my delight at hearing the above, being that I was an AVID R. & H. fan as a child AND adult. I watched the 1965 version religiously year after year until it was no longer aired. I feel very privileged to have had the honor to have been able to tailor this magnificent score to a new generation of listeners. It was an experience I will not soon forget! [source]

In 2010 Rodger and Hammerstein's Cinderella made rounds on Broadway with Paolo Montalban reprising his role as the nameless Prince. Disappointingly, however, the role of Cinderella defaults to white once again in the hands of Jessica Rush. The musical is apparently is set to reappear on stage in 2013.

Jessica Rush and Paolo Montalban

So how many of you remember the 1997 remake of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella"? And -- if so -- what was your favorite part of this acclaimed TV movie?
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