In 1955, NBC produced their live version of Peter Pan starring Mary Martin which is probably the best known of the television movie musicals from that period, but it is far from the only one. As a matter of fact, there were quite a few musicals which were produced for TV during that period, some of them done live, others shot on tape or film but shown exclusively on television. Examples of this include Annie Get Your Gun, Anything Goes, Kiss Me, Kate, and today’s subject, Cinderella.
By 1957, Julie Andrews was beginning to get some recognition on Broadway and had been nominated for a Tony Award for her portrayal of Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady on the stage, but she was years away from really becoming the household name that she would be after starring in 1964’s Mary Poppins and 1965’s The Sound of Music.
That did not stop CBS from signing her to a contract to do some kind of musical production for the network. They then approached Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein to come up with an appropriate vehicle to showcase the talents of Miss Andrews. After casting about a bit for ideas, the duo eventually settled on Cinderella.
Originally airing live at 8pm Eastern Time on March 31, 1957, Cinderella was broadcast live in the Eastern, Central and Mountain time zones both in black and white and in color for those stations that could handle the new technology. The West Coast received a delayed black and white-only broadcast starting at 8pm Pacific time. Beyond the continental United States, it was carried by CBS affiliates in the U.S. territories of Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico; in Canada it was broadcast on CBC.
According to reports, the show was watched by 107 million viewers, or over 60% of the US population at the time, making it the most viewed television program in history at the time.
Along with Ms. Andrews, who was nominated for an Emmy Award for the performance, the production also starred Jon Cypher as The Prince, Howard Lindsay as The King, Dorothy Stickney as The Queen, Edith Adams as the Fairy Godmother, Kaye Ballard and Alice Ghostley as stepsisters Portia and Joy, Ilka Chase as the Stepmother, and Iggie Wolfington as The Steward. The show was directed by Ralph Nelson and choreographed by Jonathan Lucas.
Unfortunately, it appears that the only surviving recording of the production is a black and white kinescope, as it was not recorded on videotape, nor in color. That surviving recording is available on DVD, and in parts on YouTube, so here, for your enjoyment are the first 10 minutes or so of the show, and I highly recommend you seeking out the rest.