All the musical adaptations of Cinderella
With multiple Cinderellas hitting the stage this year, discover all the iterations of the fairytale on Broadway, off Broadway, in opera, and as a movie musical.
Great stories stand the test of time, and few stories confirm that fact better than Cinderella. A "Cinderella story" has become a common description for a rags-to-riches tale, where an ordinary person transforms and finds happiness beyond their wildest dreams.
The expression is so popular because so many Cinderella stories, beginning in ancient times, surfaced in all forms of art and literature. That, of course, includes theatre. Cinderella has popped up in movie musicals, Broadway classics, and all types of musical theatre fare in between. The princess even hit the Broadway stage three times in spring 2023 alone: in a recent revival of Into the Woods and in the new musicals Bad Cinderella and Once Upon a One More Time.
Take a look through the history of Cinderella in musicals, and go see the latest updates to her time-honored story on stage.
1899: Cinderella opera
Fairytales are common sources for operas, and Cinderella is no different. The story as we know it is widely attributed to 17th-century Frenchman Charles Perrault, so it's fitting that the most enduring Cinderella opera, from 1899, was also written in French.
Jules Massenet's Cendrillon is likely one of the oldest versions of Cinderella to hit the New York stage. The Metropolitan Opera presented an abridged English translation of the opera in 2021, and the company has also mounted the original French version multiple times, most recently in 2018.
1928: Mr. Cinders
Cinderella isn't always an Ella. A 1928 musical adaptation swapped the fairytale's traditional gender roles and set the story in the 1920s. The title character is a lowly worker, and Prince Charming is replaced with a bold heiress reflective of the "new flapper woman" of the era.
In some ways, Mr. Cinders is a precursor to the many subsequent modern Cinderella updates since, each adapting the story to the times as they evolve.
1950: Disney's Cinderella
This classic animated movie has become part of many generations' childhoods and continues to do so. Since Disney released its version of Cinderella in 1950, the title character has become one of the most iconic Disney princesses.
This film, which features songs like "A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes" and "Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo," has never gotten the Broadway musical treatment. Disney did, however, produce a 1997 remake of a different Cinderella musical (more on that below) and release a live-action movie musical adaptation of the animated film in 2015, starring Lily James.
1957: Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella
Rodgers and Hammerstein were the first major Broadway composers of their time to tackle the fairytale, but they didn't do it for Broadway. Their Cinderella premiered as a TV movie in 1957, with Julie Andrews in the title role.
Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella has stood the test of time, having had two additional film remakes. The first was a 1965 version starring Lesley Ann Warren alongside Ginger Rogers as the Queen. The second, a 1997 TV movie, had an all-star lineup all the way through. This remake featured stage and screen icons including Brandy Norwood, Whitney Houston, Bernadette Peters, Paolo Montalbán, Whoopi Goldberg, Victor Garber, and Jason Alexander.
Finally, more than 50 years after Rodgers and Hammerstein wrote Cinderella, the show made it to Broadway in 2013 and ran for just under two years.
An Off-Broadway musical adaptation of Cinderella, titled Cindy, had three New York runs between 1964 and 1965. The show played the now-defunct Gate and Cricket Theatres, as well as the Orpheum Theatre. Cindy was a then-contemporary update of the fairytale, setting it in 1960s New York.
1987: Into the Woods
Into the Woods isn't just a Cinderella story. Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's Tony Award-winning musical mashes up lots of different Grimm Brothers fairytales. The characters all meet in the woods to find happily ever after — and then learn the harsh realities of "after." Cinderella is a main character in Into the Woods, but her Prince "Charming" turns out to be a self-absorbed philanderer.
Broadway stars including Laura Benanti, Phillipa Soo, Jessie Mueller, and Sierra Boggess have all played Cinderella in Into the Woods on stage, and Anna Kendrick played her in the 2014 film adaptation.
2004: Ella Enchanted
This movie musical adaptation of Cinderella starred Anne Hathaway, whose theatrical credits include Twelfth Night and the Les Misérables movie musical. The soundtrack consists entirely of existing pop music, like Aretha Franklin's "Respect" and Queen's "Somebody to Love."
Ella Enchanted has a different main plot than other Cinderella stories: Ella gets a well-intentioned magical "gift" at birth that ends up being a curse, and she goes on a quest to break it. Elements of the classic fairytale in this version include the fairy godmother, a cruel stepmother and stepsisters, a charming prince, and events coming to a head when the clock strikes midnight.
An interesting detail about Ella Enchanted is that the fairy godmother is named Lucinda. In other adaptations, like Into the Woods, Lucinda and Florinda are the names of Cinderella's stepsisters.
2015: Ever After
The 1998 movie Ever After, a realistic (that is, sans fairy godmother with magic powers) historical fiction film starring Drew Barrymore, isn't a musical. Marcy Heisler and Zina Goldrich changed that when they adapted the film for the stage. The show has only played in two regional theatres: New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse and Georgia's Alliance Theatre.
However, all its iterations have featured big-name Broadway talent. A 2013 reading starred Sierra Boggess (who returned for the Alliance production in 2018), Jeremy Jordan, and Sadie Sink. The cast of the 2015 Paper Mill production included Christine Ebersole and Julie Halston.
2018: Pretty Woman
Did you know the hit Julia Roberts rom-com is loosely based on Cinderella? Roberts's downtrodden character, Vivian, is a prostitute instead of a maid, and the wealthy Edward (Richard Gere) gives her a life fit for a princess after falling for her. In 2018, a Pretty Woman musical adaptation ran on Broadway for a year.
2021: Live-action Cinderella
Yet another Cinderella film hit the big screen in 2021, with pop star Camila Cabello as the princess. This version featured original songs in addition to existing pop hits from artists like Queen, Madonna, and Janet Jackson. There were also multiple beloved theatre actors alongside Cabello, including Tony winners Idina Menzel and Billy Porter.
2021: Bad Cinderella
In 2021, Andrew Lloyd Webber premiered his take on the fairytale in London's West End, just called Cinderella. But when the show announced a 2023 move to Broadway, it also announced a new title: Bad Cinderella, to emphasize its edgy, pop-punk nature. Like its leading lady, the musical's title got a makeover.
Lloyd and David Zippel wrote the songs for Bad Cinderella, and Oscar winner Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman, Killing Eve) wrote the new Cinderella story. Here, the loudmouthed, punk maid is an outcast by choice in a town where everyone is beautiful. Cinderella changes her tune — and her look — to avoid losing her best friend's love, but it might not be that easy.
2022: Once Upon a One More Time
Come May 2023, two Cinderellas will be on Broadway at once. A block away from Bad Cinderella is Once Upon a One More Time, which premiered in 2022 in Washington, D.C.
Once Upon a One More Time is also a pop-infused musical, with Britney Spears's songs scoring this fairytale. Cinderella and other princesses — Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rapunzel, and more — change their lives after reading The Feminine Mystique in their book club.
Unlike in the rest of the Cinderella adaptations listed here, finding Prince Charming isn't the ultimate happily ever after. These princesses get to create happily ever after for themselves.
Top image credit: Brandy in Cinderella (1997), Linedy Genao in Bad Cinderella (2023), and Briga Heelan in Once Upon a One More Time (2022). (Second and third photos by Matthew Murphy)
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