Over the years, the folk tale of Cinderella and her glass slipper has been told in almost every way possible. But among all of the iterations, one retelling reigns supreme: Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1997 film, based off of the composer’s eponymous musical of the same name. Colourful, musically compelling, and diverse long before think pieces about representation were even a thing, the musical film hit every mark from beginning to end. And now, you can finally give your old VHS copy of it a break and watch it on Disney+.
Since the release of the popular film, it’s been virtually impossible to find Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella on any platform without having to purchase a DVD or a VHS. But Disney+ has officially acquired the musical, and it will be added as part of the streamer’s “Celebrate Black Stories” collection alongside Disney originals like Beyoncé’s Black is King, Soul, Black Panther, and more.
To this day, Cinderella is widely considered one of the best film adaptations of any musical as well as the best version of the classic fairytale simply because of its star power. It cast Brandy at her peak — box braids and all — as the would-be princess and icon Whitney Houston as her fairy godmother. Whoopi Goldberg, Victor Garber, Bernadette Peters, Jason Alexander, and the late Natalie Desselle also starred. Like I said, star power. But even beyond its A-list cast, the film effortlessly addressed a problem that studios today still seem to have no understanding of: truly equitable representation.
In 1997, we had the privilege of watching a Black woman be the star of her own love story. Even rarer, an Asian-American man was able to take on the lead role of the desirable prince (and baby, he was desirable), and his parents, played by Goldberg and Garber, were an interracial couple who didn’t once have to explain the science behind their gene pool. In its colourblind casting and the diverse universe that went with it, Cinderella proved that casting people of color in universal stories is actually a worthwhile and very profitable endeavour. It really should have set the standard for projects years to come, leading to an array of films and televisions that cast BIPOC in every role imaginable, but the industry obviously didn’t learn its lesson; even in “diverse” projects like Bridgerton, people of colour are still getting the shorter end of the stick. It’s almost as if Hollywood regressed, even with this fool-proof formula right in front of its nose.
Thanks to Disney+, we can go back to more progressive times by streaming Cinderella and seeing the world as it should be — all rainbow ballgowns and singing in the streets. "A Lovely Night" indeed.
Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella will be available for streaming on Disney+ on 12th February 2021.