There are some things that transport you right back to childhood. A sound, a smell, an experience … for a lot of us, those moments are tied up in Disney. The smell of churros. The sound of Main Street vehicles. Hugging Mickey Mouse. Figment is one of mine. And Dumbo in its original Fantasyland spot.
But I’m one of five kids from a working-class family, so I don’t have a whole ton of memories of Disney. I do, however, have very vivid, transporting recollections of staying up past my bedtime with my dad, watching musicals (and Westerns, but I didn’t like them as much). We loved West Side Story, My Fair Lady and especially Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella.
The film’s big romantic number, Ten Minutes Ago, still makes my heart ache and never fails to get stuck in my head, but it’s Cinderella’s number with her Fairy Godmother, Impossible, that’s really my favorite. Impossible things are happening every day, don’t you know? The second I hear the tune, I am instantly six years old, dancing through the living room in my Barbie nightgown.
As it turns out, those same notes have the very same effect on Cinderella herself, Lesley Ann Warren!
Estelle from This Happy Place Blog was kind enough to invite me to attend the Launch Event for the DVD release of the 50th Anniversary Edition of the television special, where Warren revealed that hearing the musical’s score still brings her back to that moment when she was 18 years old, singing the songs for the first time.
During the special evening, which was held at the Barnes and Noble on 86th Street in Manhattan, Warren talked with theatre historian Richard Skipper about her experience auditioning and making the film as well as how its incredible popularity impacted the arc of her career. She was really charming, and I wished the evening could have gone on forever. I’d definitely read her book (if she wrote one).
In addition, we were so so so lucky because the beautiful Broadway star sang three songs from the film: Ten Minutes Ago, In My Own Little Corner and A Lovely Night. Warren even admitted that she hadn’t performed the songs in public since first filming the musical so many years ago. Although she’s still got the mojo, for sure. (Not that she ever lost it … if you’ve never seen her in Cinderella, you probably know her as Miss Scarlett from Clue.)
It really was a lovely night, and if you haven’t seen Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella, you really need to. Warren is Cinderella. She’s gorgeous and has a naturally sweet nature that shines through. She truly seems as if she is the epitome of a darling, lovely girl who works herself to the bone, pleasantly ‘aw shucks’-ing her way through things with a smile on her face and a prayer in her heart.
The whole cast is delightful, really. The stepsisters are pitch perfect. Walter Pidgeon and Ginger Rogers play the King and Queen (as they should!), and Stuart Damon plays Charming.
I’ve never been one for princes. Really, until 1989’s Prince Eric, I really don’t even care for any of the Disney princes. But this Prince Charming, well … as a child in the 80s, I had a special connection to him: He played Alan Quartermaine on General Hospital, the soap opera my mother and I watched together literally from the time I was in the womb and up through my teen years. I didn’t make that connection as a kid, dancing in my living room, but looking back, that kind, familiar face must have been why I was so drawn to this particular prince.
Even 50 years later and despite the spare sets, I still think this is the absolute epitome of the Cinderella story for me. And probably always will be. Which is why I was shocked when the conversation at the 86th Street Barnes and Noble turned to whether or not the television special would be of any interest today. No, someone said … these types of shows don’t appeal. Certainly not in primetime.
That made me so so sad. Because a classic like this is a classic forever. I watched it with my family, and if I ever have kids, I’d want to watch it with them. And I do think families still want that kind of programming … but I guess we’ll find out for sure when Peter Pan Live! is broadcast on NBC this December. I, for one, welcome this kind of programming and am really looking forward to Peter Pan.
Have you seen Cinderella? What’s your favorite song from the stage version?