DVD Review: Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella – 50th Anniversary Edition

NBC and other networks are creating event nights by reviving popular family musicals with all star casts. Viewers loved seeing Carrie Underwood in The Sound of MusicPeter Pan starring the daughter of NBC’s news anchor. But this isn’t that new of an activity. There was a time when networks loved bring a touch of Broadway to the small screen. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella – 50th Anniversary Edition revives the musical sensation that aired on CBS.

Cinderella was a major TV special with quite a few big stars gracing the stage. This was one of those moments when TV tried to prove it wasn’t a vast wasteland. The King and Queen are played by Walter Pidgeon (Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea) and Ginger Rogers (Fred Astaire’s dancing partner). However for the role of Cinderella, the producers went with the unknown Lesley Ann Warren. Her casting lets viewers immediately know they aren’t getting the Disney version of the fairytale since she’s a brunette and not a blond. She is perfect as the downtrodden orphan forced to slavishly labor for her undeserving stepmother (Jo Van Fleet) and stepsisters (Pat Carroll and Barbara Ruickand). She does have dreams and a big one grabs her when she meets the handsome Prince (General Hospital‘s Stuart Damon) early on. She fetches a drink of water for the parched royalty. When the announcement arrives that there shall be a fancy ball so the Prince can select a bride, Cinderella knows that she can catch his eye once more if she gets a chance. Even though her stepmother and stepsisters keep her down, the Fairy Godmother (All About Eve‘s Celeste Holm) comes to her rescue with a pumpkin and a magic wand.

The production is the pure artifice of a theatrical production. The focus is all about the music and the performances. The art department isn’t trying approach realism in their designs. The sets have a pop-up storybook feel although there are real horses for the Prince to ride.

Cinderella can be watched with or without the musical overture. It’s a fun bonus feature to run when you’re doing your best to herd the entire family into TV room. The score is a perfect way to calm things down before the curtain rises on the magical kingdom. Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella is a beautiful performance from 1965 that still holds up half a century later. Here’s my daughter’s feelings about the DVD:

The video is 1.33:1 full frame. The special was shot on videotape so it has a touch of fuzziness. The details are remarkably still vivid for vintage video. The colors dazzle better than the 2002 DVD release. The audio is Dolby Digital Mono. The music comes through vividly. The musical is subtitled in English and Spanish.

Retrospective Featurette (9:51) gives a little background on the production. Lesley Ann Warren, Stuart Damon and Celeste Holm speak about their roles.

Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella – 50th Anniversary Edition brings back the joy of the CBS special event. Lesley Ann Warren shines as the downtrodden girl who gets a magic wish to become a princess.

Shout! Factory presents Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella – 50th Anniversary Edition. Directed by: Charles S. Dubin. Screenplay by: Joseph Schrank. Starring: Lesley Ann Warren, Ginger Rogers, Stuart Damon and Celeste Holm. Running Time: 78 minutes. Released: September 9, 2014.