SFX Theatrical Group and NETworks officially announced June 2 that Diahann Carroll will star as the Fairy Godmother in a new national tour of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, beginning Nov. 28 in Tampa, FL.
Gabriel Barre, hot from staging Off-Broadway's The Wild Party, will helm the tour, to be choreographed by Ken Roberson. The tour begins at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.
Playbill On-Line reported Carroll as a likely Fairy Godmother on May 31 but was not able to confirm the casting. The pop singer Monica has been mentioned for the role of Cinderella, but no other casting has been announced.
What remains unclear is whether or not the tour will borrow ideas from the hit 1997 TV movie, which had a multicultural cast (an African American Queen, a white King, a Filipino Prince) and a script and score somewhat different from the classic 1957 and 1965 TV productions of the tuner (the only show R&H wrote for the small screen).
The 1997 "Wonderful World of Disney" broadcast is different still from the Hammerstein script that is licensed to stock and amateur groups several hundred times a year (itself using interpolations). A spokesman for The Rodgers and Hammerstein Organization told Playbill On-Line June 2 that a new script is being developed based on the Hammerstein original and drawing from various productions over the years. A songlist is still being discussed, but the now-classic score will likely be intact; several generations of musical fans grew up with such tunes as "Ten Minutes Ago," "Impossible," "The Stepsisters' Lament" and "In My Own Little Corner."
There have been changes over the years to each version of the R&H "Cinderella" project: The 1965 version included an interpolated song ("Boys and Girls Like You and Me," cut from Oklahoma!), the 1993 New York City Opera staging added another tune ("The Loneliness of Evening," cut from South Pacific) and the licensed stage script has borrowed other R&H songs.
The flashier 1997 version starred Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother and Brandy in the title role (a part previous played by Julie Andrews in 1957 and Lesley Ann Warren in 1965). A new teleplay and interpolations of "The Sweetest Sounds" (with music and lyrics by Rodgers, from No Strings), "Falling in Love With Love" (with lyrics by Lorenz Hart, from The Boys From Syracuse), "There's Music in You" (from the film, "Main Street to Broadway") and "Your Majesties/The Prince is Giving a Ball" (with new lyrics by Fred Ebb) were included in the new movie, which was seen by 60 million people.
A further tour schedule is expected soon. Cincinnati's Aronoff Center will likely see the show in February, according to a web site for Cincinnati events. The site said the tour adopts the "casting concept" of the recent TV movie.
Musical theatre fans who know their history would delight in the possibility of Carroll being in a project that included "The Sweetest Sounds," a central theme in Rodgers' solo project as songwriter, No Strings (1962). It was the composer's first show after the 1960 death of Hammerstein. Carroll starred in the musical with Richard Kiley, representing the first interracial leading-character romance in a Broadway musical.
The role won Carroll a Tony Award (she tied with Anna Maria Alberghetti, of Carnival). Carroll's stage credits include Broadway's House of Flowers, the Canadian production of Sunset Boulevard and, recently, a run in Off-Broadway's The Vagina Monologues.
"The Sweetest Sounds" opens the 1997 movie as a distant duet between Cinderella and the Prince, who have not yet met. Is it possible Carroll will be given a snippet of "Sweetest Sounds" for the sake of nostalgia?
Storyline Entertainment, Disney and ABC are not involved in the tour, according to their representatives.
Not content to stay in its own little corner on the TV screen, the smash 1997 ratings hit, "Cinderella," was first discussed as a stage possibility in 1999, but back then it was thought Disney might be a major player in the tour.
The new TV movie used newly orchestrated and arranged versions of songs by Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II.
The 1997 cast included Jason Alexander (the Valet), Veanne Cox and Natalie Desselle (Stepsisters), Victor Garber (the King), Whoopi Goldberg (the Queen), newcomer Paolo Montalban (the Prince) and Bernadette Peters (the Stepmother).
-- By Kenneth Jones