Glass slippers. Happily ever after, despite wicked stepmothers. And wait ‘til you see the stepsisters: the musical Cinderella opens August 1, live onstage in Lincoln.
This Rodgers & Hammerstein Cinderella helped set the bar for breathing new life into ancient fables, and owes its heritage to the golden age of television. Yes, the classic began life on the small screen long before being transformed into a Broadway production that will run through August 17 at Jean’s Playhouse, the North Country Center for the Arts.
Cinderella is at once a fairy tale and a tale of how fortune wins out over every obstacle, with the help of a little magic. It’s been told in multiple variations and cultures for more than a thousand years, but the one we know the best is from French author, Charles Perrault, in about 1697. The girl who dwells in the kitchen ashes whose chance meeting with a handsome prince drives the satisfying and just conclusion of happy romance; the way strewn with stepsisters, stepmother, a royal court and the magic of fairy dust applied liberally. It is that legendary tale that Rodgers and Hammerstein built their entrancing musical in 1957.
While “live for television” musicals seem to be making a splash these days, in the 1950s the early medium needed content – and networks like NBC found it in “Peter Pan” and, not to be outdone, CBS hired the Broadway veteran team who created a vehicle for then-new star Julie Andrews.
Cinderella was the only musical written exclusively for television. Attacking the project as if it were a Broadway show, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II set to work and, within eight months, had produced a musical based on Charles Perrault’s version of the story. They wrote ten songs in all, including “Ten Minutes Ago”, one of Rodger's finest waltzes; the very funny “Stepsister's Lament”; “My Own Little Corner”, “Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?”; and “When You're Driving Through the Moonlight”. Broadcast live on CBS-TV on Sunday night March 31, 1957, it was viewed by the largest television audience to date of over 100 million people.
And it didn’t stop there: 1965 produced a new version with Lesley Ann Warren as Cinderella, and a stellar cast including Ginger Rogers, Walter Pidgeon, and Celeste Holm that was televised for most of the following decade. In 1997, a new film for a new generation included Brandy, Whitney Houston, Whoopi Goldberg and Jason Alexander. All that before the Broadway version finally premiered in 2013.
It’s this enchanting live production that will be onstage August 1 through 17 at Jean’s Playhouse. With a professional cast including many of the actors onstage all summer and featuring Carrie Wagner as Cinderella and Tyler Mell as the Prince; joined by NH actors Alex Picard and Shelly Fawson and three local youngsters Addy Allain, Molly Hazelton, and Devian Kenyon. Information/tickets at www.jeansplayhouse.com; box office, Wed-Sat. at 603-745-2141.