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10 Thoughts I Had Watching CINDERELLA (1997) for the First Time

Brandy, Whitney Houston, Bernadette Peters, Whoopi Goldberg, Jason Alexander, and more lead the adaptation.

10 Thoughts I Had Watching CINDERELLA (1997) for the First Time

At the stroke of midnight, Disney Plus reissued the beloved 1997 TV adaptation of Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Cinderella," starring Brandy, Whitney Houston, Bernadette Peters, Whoopi Goldberg, Jason Alexander, Veanne Cox, Natalie Desselle, Victor Garber, and Paolo Montalban. For many, the release is a giddy, nostalgic reminder of happy childhood memories; for me, it's the first time I got to see something very special.

So, not wanting to miss out, I fired up Disney Plus and wrote down a bunch of things I thought about while watching this sweet, lovely, groundbreaking screen adaptation for the first time. Here are those thoughts!

Watch "Cinderella" on Disney Plus here.


Whitney Houston is an Unmatched Icon

It should go without saying, but we, culturally, did not deserve Whitney Houston. With the Britney Spears documentary released earlier this week, right now feels like the perfect time to revisit the legacies of other women hounded and treated unfairly by the media, including Houston - who was not only the voice of her generation, but the producer. On top of being one of the most successful recording artists of all time, Houston was fundamental to the production and success of this film, and, fun fact, she was also a producer on "The Princess Diaries." You can thank her for your favorite music AND many of your favorite childhood memories - not to mention the incredible diversity and strength of this cast.

10 Thoughts I Had Watching CINDERELLA (1997) for the First Time

We're Combatting the 'Not Like Other Girls' Stereotype So Early On!

The idea of a "feminist" Cinderella seems almost counterproductive, but 1997 "Cinderella" justifies its unusual characterization with gusto. I took note of the interaction Cinderella has with her prince early on - he tells her she's "not like most girls," and she responds, accusatory AND sweet: "What do you mean?" That's not just unusual in a "Cinderella" story; it's unusual for contemporary attitudes in film, period. Brandy's Cinderella has no problem empowering audiences with the message that there's nothing actually wrong with being like "most girls." "Most girls" are pretty cool!

10 Thoughts I Had Watching CINDERELLA (1997) for the First Time

This is the Prettiest Leading Couple in the History of Movies

Brandy and Paolo Montalban are two of the prettiest people I have ever seen and that fact alone is enough to buy their chemistry. But - also - their chemistry is so sweet and adorable that it's almost impossible to handle. Brandy starred in the title role on "Moesha" before taking on the role of Cinderella, where this marked Montalban's on-screen debut. The two young actors convey the feeling of love-at-first-sight so adeptly that it's hard not to fall in love yourself.

10 Thoughts I Had Watching CINDERELLA (1997) for the First Time

Hollywood Loves Putting Whoopi Goldberg in Big Hats

More movies should have Whoopi Goldberg, and more movies should have Whoopi Goldberg in big hats, so it's very special and joyful whenever that synthesis happens. Hollywood loves Whoopi in a big hat; I love Whoopi in a big hat; you love Whoopi in a big hat. From her Academy Award-winning performance in "Ghost" to her guest appearance on "Moonlighting" to her role on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," and then, if you will, back to the habit in "Sister Act," the size of her headgear has only been exceeded by the size of her talent. The continuation of that unspoken hat tradition filled me with glee in "Cinderella," where she plays the hilariously overprotective queen.

Victor Garber is the Common Factor in So Many Good Things

I think Victor Garber is a secret weapon. The Canadian stage and screen actor has been the glue holding together so many iconic films, including the recent holiday rom com "Happiest Season," the blockbuster "Titanic," and this edition of "Cinderella," in which he plays the handsome, suave king of the kingdom. The four-time Tony nominee is particularly excellent in an ensemble piece like this one, holding his charming, sparkling own while always bringing out the best in his scene partners.

I Adore Jason Alexander's Nebulously European Accent

There aren't many people more talented or fun to watch than Jason Alexander, who is best known from his long run playing George Costanza on "Seinfeld." I have no idea what he's doing with his voice in this movie, but I love it more than I can put into words. Is he... Italian? Spanish? Why is no one else doing an accent? It doesn't matter. It's so much fun. Alexander also sounds wonderful in his singing parts and dances very well; obviously, the man doesn't need to prove his musical theatre cred (he starred in the original Broadway production of "Merrily We Roll Along!"), but it's nice that he does it anyway.

10 Thoughts I Had Watching CINDERELLA (1997) for the First Time

This is the Best Rendition of 'In My Own Little Corner' I've Ever Seen

I don't know about you, but I went to theatre school, and I've heard so many bland, boring renditions of "In My Own Little Corner" that I truly never thought I could hear it and enjoy it again. Brandy's version is revelatory, though; I've never seen someone have so much fun painting the story beats of the song, and I've never seen anyone's wide-eyed optimism so clearly through the framework of childhood neglect. This song, more than any other, is the opportunity to win the audience over - it makes you really believe in the kindness and goodness of Brandy's Cinderella.

10 Thoughts I Had Watching CINDERELLA (1997) for the First Time

Bernadette Peters is In Her Own World and I Love It

Speaking of her own little corner! The 1997 "Cinderella" throughline is every single actor having seemingly more fun than they've ever had in their whole lives, and legendary Broadway actress Bernadette Peters is no exception. This is possibly the most "Bernadette Peters" Bernadette Peters performance I've ever seen - she looks great, and she sounds even better, and she's so, so, silly throughout. She even sings a song made famous in a whole other musical; Bernadette Peters cannot be limited by the confines of one single show! This enormous, scene-stealing performance is everything you expect when you put Ms. Peters in your movie.

10 Thoughts I Had Watching CINDERELLA (1997) for the First Time

'Stepsister's Lament' is the Most Underrated R&H Song

Can we talk about how difficult it is to make the audience love you for being TERRIBLE? I've always been in awe of the actresses tasked with tackling the stepsister roles in any iteration of Cinderella I've ever seen - it requires comedic precision and a great helping of self-awareness. Veanne Cox and Natalie Desselle are pitch perfect here, highlighted best by their performance of the hilarious character song "Stepsister's Lament." I don't know why we don't talk about this song more. It's the best, and not easy to sell.

Every Single Song in This is 'Climb Every Mountain'

Composers often have "marks" and traits that make their music distinguishable from every other composer. Maybe it's because I just watched "The Sound of Music" to mark the passing of Christopher Plummer, but, wow - every single song in R&H "Cinderella" is "Climb Every Mountain." And that's fine! We love "Climb Every Mountain." But I think if you asked me who wrote "Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?" with no other context, I'd be like, "Oh, yeah. Definitely Rodgers and Hammerstein, because it sounds just like 'Climb Every Mountain.'" It's good to have a calling card!

Photo Credit: Disney


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