It sure didn't turn into a pumpkin.
ABC-TV's Nov. 2 broadcast of Cinderella, the Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II musical, helped the network win the night -- and get its highest ratings for the 7-9 PM time period in 13 years.
According to overnight Nielsen figures from ABC, Cinderella, part of ABC's "Wonderful World Of Disney," averaged a 22.3 rating and 31 Nielsen share. The show was especially helped by its appeal to women and adults 18-49.
A single rating point represents 970,000 households, so a 23.3 rating translates to roughly 23 million households nationwide that were tuned in. ABC estimates 60 million viewers watched all or part of the telecast. A share shows percentage of televisions being used at the time that are tuned into the broadcast. In other words, 31 percent of the televisions in use between 9-11 PM, June 1, were tuned to Cinderella.
[By comparison, the Tony Awards in June managed 9.6 rating and 16 share for CBS. Also, please note that these ABC figures are slightly different from those published in the NY Post, and reprinted here, Nov. 4.] Bert Fink of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization told Playbill On-Line the high ratings would likely have a salubrious effect on further television musicals. He noted that Stephen Schwartz is already working on a version of "Pinocchio," and that Jerry Herman's Mrs. Santa Claus would be rebroadcast this holiday season.
As for Cinderella, Bernadette Peters starred as the wicked stepmother in the Rodgers & Hammerstein classic, which was originally planned for CBS as a star vehicle for Whitney Houston. However, Houston opted to take the role of the fairy godmother. [Peters previously played a wicked role as the Witch in Stephen Sondheim's 1988 Into The Woods.] The key role of that glass slipper-losing Cinderella was played by pop star Brandy [sic].
For more on the special, see Ken Mandelbaum's column in US Theatre News. For coverage of the show's special premiere, see the news story, "Cinderella Screening: A Star Sapphire Evening."
Others in the Cinderella cast included "Seinfeld's" Jason Alexander as Lionel, a new character created for this version; Whoopi Goldberg as the Queen; Paolo Montalban as the prince; and Veanne Cox (of Company fame) as one of the wicked stepsisters.
The Rodgers & Hammerstein score includes "Ten Minutes Ago," "Impossible" and "Do I Love You." Three songs were added, including "The Sweetest Sounds" (from No Stringsscore, with lyrics by Rodgers) sung by Brandy and the young prince; "There's Music in You," an R&H tune performed by Whitney Houston; and "Falling in Love With Love," a song from The Boys From Syracuse (with lyrics by Lorenz Hart), sung by Peters. The lavish production cost $12 million -- one of the most expensive TV movies ever made.
R&H's only musical written expressly for television, Cinderella was originally done with Julie Andrews, then remade for broadcast on CBS with Lesley Ann Warren. The musical made its New York stage debut at New York City Opera in 1994 with Crista Moore as Cinderella.