I’m not a big fan of modern records. My taste runs to Mahler, the classics, Andrea Bocelli, Sarah Brightman, and the occasional soundtrack. I can’t say that I ever consciously listened to a record by Whitney Houston. Nevertheless I feel I knew her a little through a DVD I’ve watched many times: Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, as co-produced by Whitney Houston and Walt Disney Enterprises.
I’ve loved the music since I first heard it, on the original CBS broadcast with Julie Andrews as Cinderella in 1957. I don’t know if there even were color televisions then. We certainly didn’t have one, and my DVD of the original broadcast is in black and white.
The Disney version has a somewhat more traditional ending than the original broadcast, but the music is just as glorious, if not more so. And color? This DVD fairly pops with color, from the fabric swathes during the food dance (I don’t know what else to call it) to the row of gaily-patterned stockings on the feet of the girls waiting to try on the glass slipper.
The cast is multi-ethnic to a somewhat startling degree. Whoopi Goldberg and Victor Garber as the king and queen gave me no problems, nor did Paolo Montalban as the prince. Brandi as Cinderella gave life to some of my favorite songs, and Bernadette Peters was a wonderfully wicked stepmother. But the stepsisters…
There is nothing wrong with the performances of Jenne Cox and Natalie Dusselle. Their interaction, as rivals united only in despising Cinderella, was excellent. But I can’t help looking at things with a geneticist’s eye, and for years I was bothered by the idea that the thin, pale-skinned redhead and the plump chocolate-skinned woman were full sisters, both the daughters of a very pale-skinned mother. Recessives are unlikely to be that well hidden.
Finally, I realized that there is absolutely nothing said about how many times the stepmother had been married! Three times, obviously, with her two daughters having different fathers, and the third marriage being to Cinderella’s father. Now I can relax, my inner geneticist satisfied, and simply enjoy the DVD.
Whitney Houston played the fairy godmother with the aid of some special effects from the Disney team, and she was magnificent in the role. According to the featurette on the DVD, she was a real-life fairy godmother to Brandi, too.
I suppose it’s a bit light and fluffy by the standards of today’s movies, but it’s still one I can watch over and over again. Go Cinderella – and some day I’ll do a comparison of some of the DVDs and retellings of this story.