Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella is a 1997 American musical telefilm produced by Walt Disney Television. It is a remake of the Rodgers and Hammerstein's television movie musical, and the only one of the three versions to be shot as a film. It was adapted by Robert L. Freedman and directed by Robert Iscove, with choreography by Rob Marshall, and was produced by Whitney Houston and Debra Martin Chase for Walt Disney Productions. It was part of a revival of The Wonderful World of Disney series, on Disney-owned ABC, and aired on November 2, 1997.
Cinderella's Fairy Godmother (Whitney Houston) explains that nothing is impossible in this magical, mystical realm. In the marker, Cinderella (Brandy Norwood) struggles under the weight of the numerous gaudy purchases of her imperious stepmother (Bernadette Peters) and her spiteful and envious stepsisters, Calliope (Veanne Cox) and Minerva (Natalie Desselle-Reid). Her imagination wanders ("The Sweetest Sounds"). Disguised as a peasant, Prince Christopher (Paolo Montalban) strolls through the market. Cinderella is nearly crushed by the royal coach, searching for missing royalty, but she is saved by Prince Christopher's heroic intervention and is immediately charmed by his sincere, direct nature, just as he is drawn to her naive honesty and purity. Her stepmother scolds her, and Prince Christopher reluctantly returns to the palace.
Upbraided by his frantic loyal servant, Lionel (Jason Alexander), for his clandestine venture into the village, Prince Christopher tries to explain his sense of isolation and sadness. His parents, King Maximilian (Victor Garber) and Queen Constantina (Whoopi Goldberg), are making preparations for a ball where he is to select a suitable bride from all the eligible maidens in the kingdom. He wishes to fall in love the old-fashioned way, but they dismiss this, and Lionel is dispatched to proclaim that "The Prince is Giving a Ball". Meanwhile, Cinderella's stepmother, determined to see Calliope or Minerva get chosen, plans their big night. Cinderella wonders if she, too, can go to the ball. Finding the idea humorous, her stepmother reminds her of her lowly station and warns against dreams of joy, success, and splendor. Disappointed, she dreams of a world away from her cold and loveless life ("In My Own Little Corner").
Using his diplomatic skills, Lionel offers a compromise between King Maximilian, Queen Constantina, and Prince Christopher: if a fitting bride is not selected at the ball, then he may seek his true love in his own way. At the same time, thinking about her own lost opportunities, Cinderella's stepmother drills snorting Calliope and itchy Minerva on royal etiquette and tricks to impress Prince Christopher, vowing that one of them will snare him. As Cinderella questions the meaning of love and romance, her stepmother reminds the girls that going to the ball has nothing to do with finding love, but everything to do with getting a husband by any means necessary ("Falling in Love With Love"). Her stepmother, Calliope, and Minerva depart for the ball in their garish ballgowns.
Responding to Cinderella's tears, her Fairy Godmother appears and encourages her to start living her dreams ("Impossible"). She transforms a pumpkin into a gilded coach, rats into footmen, mice into horses, and adorns Cinderella in a gorgeous ballgown, complete with a bejeweled tiara and glass slippers. She cautions her that magic spells have time limits, and so she must leave the ball before the stroke of midnight. She finally begins to believe "It's Possible". At the ball, Lionel dutifully delivers eligible maidens to Prince Christopher on the dance floor, and Cinderella's stepmother fiendishly schemes behind the scenes on behalf of Calliope and Minerva. Prince Christopher is unimpressed by Minerva, who breaks out in an itchy rash, and Calliope, who snorts uncontrollably at everything he says.
Cinderella appears at the top of the stairs, and Prince Christopher has eyes only for her. Soon they are waltzing together ("Ten Minutes Ago"), as the "Stepsisters Lament" over their bad luck. King Maximilian and Queen Constantina are intrigued by this mysterious girl. Embarrassed by questions about her background, she escapes to the garden in tears, where her Fairy Godmother magically appears for moral support. Reunited again, she and Prince Christopher wonder, "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?" Just as they share their first kiss, the palace clock begins to strike midnight. Cinderella flees, leaving behind a single clue on the palace steps: a glass slipper.
Cinderella's stepmother, Calliope, and Minerva return home telling exaggerated stories about their glorious adventures with Prince Christopher. They speak in envious tones of a mysterious "Princess Something-or-other" who, they concede, also captured Prince Christopher's attention. Cinderella "imagines" that her evening at the ball was "A Lovely Night". Her stepmother coldly reminds her that she is common and should stop dreaming about a life she will never have. In the face of such cruelty, she decides to leave and goes to her room to pack her meager belongings. Her Fairy Godmother advises her to share her feelings with Prince Christopher.
Meanwhile, Lionel and heartbroken Prince Christopher seek the maiden who lost the glass slipper, but none of the endless supply of eligible female feet in the kingdom measure up. They finally arrive at Cinderella's house. Calliope, Minerva, and their mother try to fit their feet into the glass slipper, but to no avail. As Lionel and dispirited Prince Christopher prepares to leave, Cinderella looks into Prince Christopher's eyes as he stands beside her. He recognizes her and, knowing that he has finally found his true love, places the glass slipper onto her foot and it fits perfectly, much to her stepmother's dismay, who screams "No!" and faints in Calliope and Minerva's arms.
Cinderella and Prince Christopher marry under King Maximilian and Queen Constantina's approving eyes. Cinderella's Fairy Godmother blesses them with the message that "There's Music in You" as they are cheered by their joyful royal subjects. The palace gates slam shut on Cinderella's stepfamily, who are left outside as she and Prince Christopher start their lives of "happily ever after".
- Brandy Norwood – Cinderella
- Whitney Houston – Fairy Godmother
- Paolo Montalban – Prince Christopher
- Bernadette Peters – Cinderella's stepmother
- Veanne Cox – Calliope
- Natalie Desselle-Reid – Minerva
- Victor Garber – King Maximilian
- Whoopi Goldberg – Queen Constantina
- Jason Alexander – Lionel
- Main article: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella (soundtrack)
- The Sweetest Sound
- In My Own Little Corner
- The Prince is Giving a Ball
- Falling in Love With Love
- It's Possible
- Ten Minutes Ago
- Stepsisters' Lament
- Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?
- A Lovely Night
- Do You Love Her?
- There's Music in You
- Originally, Houston was meant to play Cinderella, but by the time it was able to be filmed she was 33, married, a new mother, and consequently didn't feel very much like her. She suggested that Norwood play her instead, who accepted on the one condition that Houston play her Fairy Godmother because she was Norwood's idol in real life.
- Originally, in the song "In My Own Little Corner", Cinderella usually mentions she is a "young Norwegian princess". In this version, however, she mentions herself to be an Egyptian one.
- Norwood, Houston, and Desselle-Reid were the first African-American actresses to play the roles of Cinderella, her Fairy Godmother, and one of her stepsisters respectively.
- Three of the songs were not made for the original stage version of, nor were they written straight for this adaptation. Instead, two of them were from two different musicals, and one was from an MGM film. "The Sweetest Sounds" was from No Strings, "There's Music in You" was from the 1953 film Main Street to Broadway, and "Falling in Love with Love" was from The Boys from Syracuse.
- The film was released on VHS on February 10, 1998, a week before the release of Belle's Magical World.
- The film was rebroadcasted on ABC's The Wonderful World of Disney on February 14, 1999 in celebration of Valentine's Day.
- The date of Houston's death was the same as that of Norwood's 33rd birthday, February 11, 2012.
- Paolo Montalban, whose debut role was Prince Christopher, reprised the role in specific productions.
- The ballgown Cinderella wears is similar to what Tiana's princess costume would look like in The Princess and the Frog.
- "Stepsisters Lament" and "A Lovely Night" are the only songs in the film with a timpani cartoon sound effect.
- During the production, the producers were so impressed by choreographer Rob Marshall, that they decided that he would direct their next project, Annie.