I was poking around on YouTube (or as I sometimes call it, YouTube University) for music to get me through a tough morning, when I came across the entire production of the 1957 TV broadcast of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. It is sheer luck that this tape exists at all, because the production was telecast live on just that one night in 1957. This show was created specifically for TV, not Broadway. (There's a Broadway version of it now, I believe.)
Later, it was redone for TV with an all-star cast, introducing Lesley Ann Warren and featuring Ginger Rogers and Celeste Holm, among others. Still later, of course, it was remade by Disney with Brandy as Cinderella and Whitney Houston as the fairy godmother. Both of these productions are in color, and the Disney has lovely production values, and a fabulous cast. (Disney has done three or four spectacular TV revivals of musicals, including this one, Annie, Bye Bye Birdie, and The Music Man. I wish they'd do more.)
But the original Cinderella, recorded by I think a kinescope process, has one irreplaceable, incomparable factor: Julie Andrews as Cinderella. She was all of 21 at the time, and she was in her starmaking role as Liza Doolittle on Broadway. Lerner and Loewe graciously loaned her out for this Rodgers and Hammerstein production. She's less conventionally girlish than Warren and less glamorous than Brandy, but she projects wonderful combination of dreaminess and unsentimentality that makes her seem like someone any Prince would pick out of a crowd. And she has one of the voices of the century, which is all the more astonishing coming out of the throat of a 21-year-old. And she does it all live! The supporting actors are all splendid, especially including Edie Adams as the Godmother. It's got a witty charm that's entirely of its era.
There are segments from the other two productions on YouTube as well, if you want to compare. But this one, in all its black-and-white fuzziness, is an amazing experience to watch.
By the way, because some admirers of Meryl Davis think of her as a fairy-tale princess, I had noticed that she could have been separated at birth from the actress currently playing Cinderella on Broadway (her name is Laura Osnes).
[Not apparent from the black-and-white photo, but their hair color at this point happens to be very similar too.]
[I hasten to add my strong belief that like anyone, Davis should be appreciated for who she is -- not for this or any other resemblance. She is unique and does not need to be compared to anyone else to deserve notice. Same goes for Osnes. ]
I see a resemblance.
I agree that each is an individual, but I do enjoy that "separated at birth" thing. Some resemblances are amazing.
Gotta Have Music
I grew up with the TV Cinderella of the 1960's, with Leslie Ann Warren, and was thrilled to find a copy of the CD recording of R&H's Cinderella a few years ago. I had no idea that Julie Andrews had been in it back in the 1950's. Now there is a Broadway run of R&H's Cinderella. We definitely want to try to get to see this one!
The music is delightful. I bet it's just enchanting onstage. You'll have to tell us what you think of it if you go. (That ballroom waltz is divine, in my estimation.)
All three productions (the Andrews one, the Lesley Ann Warren one, and the Brandy/Whitney one) go to town on the casting of the subsidiary characters. The first production had the married couple of Dorothy Stickney and Howard Lindsay, not so well known now, who starred as Mr. and Mrs. Clarence Day in the long-running play Life with Father. The Godmother was Edie Adams. The two stepsisters were the comediennes Kaye Ballard and Alice Ghostley.
The second production was considerably more elaborate. There, the unknown Lesley Ann Warren was balanced out by Hollywood institutions such as Celeste Holm, Ginger Rogers, and Walter Pidgeon. The Prince might be the handsomest prince of the three, soap actor Stuart Damon. I think a lot of us who were kids at that time could see him as our ideal prince: melting dark eyes, perfect features...sigh.
The Disney musical had the advantage of updated special effects and the great imaginations of Disney designers. What a visual confection! Another aspect of it that I love is that it's so multiethnic. The King and Queen are Whoopi Goldberg and Victor Garber. The Prince was Filipino-American actor Paolo Montalban (no relation to Ricardo). Cinderella is the gorgeous actress-singer Brandi. Whitney Houston at her mature peak, while she still gleamed, is the godmother.
But for my money the best singing done by any Cinderella is still Julie Andrews. This woman didn't have a peak. Her whole musical career has been a peak. She doesn't sing much anymore, because of the throat surgery and her age, but she's still a compelling presence in film and on TV. As one cute comment under her Cinderella video on YouTube said, "So that's how she became Queen of Genovia."
So of course I splurged (it was on sale) on the Disney version. It's simply glorious-looking. The costumes are not candy-colored as I thought I remembered, but in very rich hues, roses and rust and burgundy and purple and turquoise and olive and gold. And for a music maven, this show does one wonderful thing that didn't even exist in the time of the first version: they included a splendid song from Richard Rodgers' later musical No Strings. This is the first musical Rodgers wrote after Hammerstein's death. It didn't prove an enduring hit, but one song from it, "The Sweetest Sounds," is worthy of immortality, and this production begins with the song. Very clever of the creators to do that.
Brandy is charming, and her voice is very sweet (and I think she may be the prettiest Cinderella of the three) but for me no one could top Julie Andrews.