14 Cinderella Facts You Didn’t Know About The 1997 Rodgers and Hammerstein Version

14 Cinderella Facts You Didn't Know About The 1997 Rodgers and Hammerstein Version

Once upon a time a classic fairytale was reimagined with a groundbreaking twist. The 1997 adaptation of ‘Cinderella’ is more than just a beloved retelling of the timeless story – it’s a cultural milestone. Especially for Black and Brown representation in the industry.

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From casting controversies to record-breaking viewership, we found 13 Cinderella facts that weren’t just interesting but also mind-blowing. So, grab your glass slippers and scroll for some behind the scene Cinderella facts.

Film Debut

“Cinderella” marked Brandy and Paolo Montalban’s film debut.

Original Cinderella

When the project first began in 1993, Whitney Houston, the film’s producer, was originally cast as Cinderella. However years later when revisited in 1997, Houston believed Brandy would make a better choice and cast the young singer herself. Brandy agreed to take the role only if her idol Whitney played the Fairy Godmother.

After Whitney But Before Brandy

A Disney executive wanted Jewel to play Cinderella, not Brandy. The executive approached the producers and asked that they cast a white singer. The producers were firm in their commitment to having a Black Cinderella.

“I think he was saying to himself, ‘Who’s a white version of Brandy?’” Producer Zadan told Shondaland. “We said absolutely not. The whole point of this whole thing was to have a Black Cinderella. … People were clearly still thinking, ‘Multicultural is one thing, but do we have to have two Black leads?’”

History Was Made

Brandy also was the first Black Cinderella. Then in 2014, Keke Palmer became the first Black woman to play Cinderella on Broadway.

History Was Made Again

This version of Cinderella broke viewership records when it debuted and holds the record for the bestselling video for a made-for-TV movie.

Challenges in Casting the Evil Stepmother

Bette Midler was the first choice to portray the evil stepmother, but she turned down the role,” revealed executive producer Debra Martin Chase. According to Chase, “I cannot emphasize enough how challenging it was to cast this role. No white actress wanted to be seen as being mean to the Black Cinderella.”

Fortunately, Broadway actress Bernadette Peters stepped in and took the role. However, during an interview with Rosie O’Donnell, Peters confessed, “I hardly ever play an evil character, and it was challenging being mean to Brandy.”

Peters reflected on her role by saying, “I don’t recall if I considered the optics of playing a white evil stepmother to a Black Cinderella. We weren’t really portraying ‘real’ people – it’s a fairy tale, and I simply aimed to give my best performance, embracing the cruelty required. I believe that’s how we all approached it.”

Cinderella’s Glass Slipper Secret

In the pivotal scene where Prince Christopher identifies Cinderella via the glass slipper, they used a body double. “Those were not my feet, because I wear a size 9, and a 9 on television looks like maybe a 12.”

Lyric Change

In the song “In My Own Little Corner,” Cinderella usually says she’s a “young Norwegian princess.” In the 1997 version, Brand mentions herself to be an Egyptian Princess. Additionally, the lyric “I’m a slave from Calcutta” was changed to “a thief in Calcutta.” No explanation necessary.

Prince Christopher’s Full Name

Prince Christopher’s full name is a mouthful: Christopher Rupert Windermere Vladimir Carl Alexander François Reginald Lancelot Herman Gregory James. A whimsical and lengthy name for a fairy tale prince.

Whoopi Goldberg’s Iconic “Squeal”

Whoopi’s iconic “squeal” in response to the prince’s arrival wasn’t in the script. She later explained, “I just did that thing that parents do when they really don’t have any words that they want to share.”

Paolo Montalban’s Late Casting

Paolo Montalban, who portrayed Prince Christopher, was the last actor cast in the production. Auditions in both Los Angeles and New York involved famous actors like Wayne Brady, Marc Anthony, and Taye Diggs, but it was Montalban who ultimately won the role.

All-Star Script Read-Through

An all-star cast of Broadway legends did a read-through of the script for Whitney Houston. To secure her involvement, actors like La Chanze, Brian Stokes Mitchell, and Theresa Meritt read and sang through the show for her.

Hidden Disney Easter Egg

Aladdin’s Genie lamp is somewhere inside Cinderella’s home. Rewatch it and let us know if you find it.

Producers and Whoopi’s Out-of-Pocket Support

The producers and Whoopi Goldberg paid out of pocket for the last day of production when they ran out of funds. Disney refused to provide more money, so Whoopi donated her daily rate, and the executive producers covered the remaining expenses.

Real Glass Slipper

There were four different pairs of the infamous glass slippers on set. Three for the characters to wear, including Cinderella and her stepmother who wore them. There was one that was actually made of glass.

(Originally read on Shondaland, Elle, and Entertainment Weekly)

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