There are so many wild details behind this production (like not having any understudies, etc!) that we could stay chatting for a couple hours, but I’ll confine myself to sharing just a few. :)
Originally, it was intended to be ‘as much like a stage show as possible’ and was accordingly filmed and aired live on March 31, 1957 for one night only (as with the recent production of Sound of Music). It was broadcast over most of the US in color and also shown in US affiliates like Canada, Mexico, Cuba, and the territories of Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. (We’ll get to just how many people that was in a minute.)
It gets even more interesting. The West Coast was somehow delayed a little and ended up seeing it in black-and-white via the newly invented videotape and – incredibly – the only recording of that live telecast today is a black-and-white kinescope version, from which it seems they formatted the current release.
Now here’s where it gets really interesting. The broadcast was seen by the largest audience in the history of television: 107 million people in the US -- about 60% of the population at the time -- and roughly another 10 million outside the country. Rodgers later recounted that “a Broadway run of Cinderella could only have equaled its initial TV audience if it played 8 sold-out performances a week, every week, for 140 years.”
Personally, I’ve seen this version quite a few times and it’s actually my favorite film wherein I’ve seen Julie Andrews (i.e. when we’re specifically talking about her role), topping both Mary Poppins AND Sound of Music. (And no one can render the Cinderella songs quite as much like a skylark as Julie Andrews. ;))
The rest of the singing is excellent: Cinderella’s fairy godmother, her stepmother, stepsisters, the prince, the chorus in the town square… etc, etc., etc. All most lovely.
Overall, this rendition has a wonderful feel of clean simplicity, and -- with its streamlined, traditional retelling and cast of famous figures -- I would argue is definitely both a fascinating piece of history and the classic version of R&H’s musical Cinderella. Definitely worth seeing!