The 1997 television re-make of the musical Cinderella, the only one of the three versions shot on film, 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. This version featured a racially diverse cast, with Brandy as Cinderella, Whitney Houston as her fairy godmother, Bernadette Peters as Cinderella’s stepmother, Paolo Montalbán as the prince, Whoopi Goldberg as the queen, Victor Garber as the king and Jason Alexander as Lionel, the herald.
This version broke viewer-ship records when it debuted, with over 60 Million viewers, and it holds the record for the bestselling video for a made for TV movie.
The hit song “Falling in Love with Love”, from the Rodgers and Hart musical The Boys from Syracuse, was sung by Peters as the Stepmother. “The Sweetest Sounds” from Rodgers’ No Strings, was also added, sung by Cinderella and the Prince. “There’s Music in You,” written by Rodgers and Hammerstein for the 1953 film Main Street to Broadway, was sung as the finale by the Fairy Godmother. The production won two awards in 1998: The Art Directors Guild Excellence in Production Design Award and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Art Direction for a Variety or Music Program.
When Whitney Houston signed on to the film, she was listed as producer and in the role of Cinderella. However, she later asked Brandy to audition for the role of Cinderella, saying “I’m already 33 years old, and I want you to play Cinderella”. Brandy only agreed to do the part if Houston played her fairy godmother, because she was her “idol”. Changes to the Hammerstein plot in this version include the following: The Fairy Godmother begins the story, explaining that nothing is impossible. Disguised as a peasant, the Prince (feeling isolated in the castle) wanders in the marketplace (worrying his herald, Lionel), meets Cinderella, and they find each other charming. At the ball, embarrassed by questions about her family and background, Cinderella escapes to the garden in tears, where the Fairy Godmother appears for moral support. After her stepmother returns from the ball and is particularly cruel, Cinderella packs her belongings to run away from home. Her Fairy Godmother advises her to share her feelings with the Prince. After trying the slipper on all the other maidens, the Prince and Lionel overtake Cinderella on her journey to freedom. Meeting her gaze, the Prince recognizes her and places the slipper on her foot. At their wedding, the Fairy Godmother blesses the couple.