Reunited Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella cast remember Whitney Houston, Natalie Desselle-Reid, and more
For as happy as the cast of Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella were to be together again, even virtually, the conversation could not go forward without acknowledging the key players in making the film that we've lost over the years. Figures like Whitney Houston, who played fairy godmother to the project both on and off camera.
"That was one of the best days of my life is to be in the studio, singing with my idol, my angel," shares Brandy. "It's just a beautiful relationship with Whitney. And just for her to consider me for the role, it just was unbelievable because I spent my whole childhood wanting to sing and nobody could have told me in a million years I would be working with her."
Bringing up the viral behind the scenes footage from Entertainment Tonight of Houston and Brandy rehearsing, costar Bernadette Peters tells her former onscreen stepdaughter, "She was moving to you in that recording studio. She was so encouraging as a mentor, and so smart, and so fabulous, just fabulous."
"She had a magic about her that I felt like I could just be myself," adds Brandy. "When you're working with your idols, you don't know how to act, but she made me feel safe to be myself and really give the character all I could give."
Thinking of their time together during the actual production, Brandy admits "I was in awe of her in every scene, every scene I did with her, I just love just working with her very professional, on point, but loving and just, she just really adored me and took me under her wing."
Hearing Brandy talk about Houston, costar Jason Alexander recalls a time where the young singer bravely shared feedback with her idol. "I was waiting to do something in the recording studio and you and Whitney were rehearsing one of the tunes, and Whitney did some little gorgeous filigree, you know, riff on the end of a note and you went, 'Oh my God, please do that.' And Whitney was like, 'Really?' I mean she really didn't know it owned. And it took you to go, 'Please do that.'"
"And then I asked her to also come, you know, move away from the mic so I can be heard," jokes Brandy. "And you, when you hit your notes, just move, you know, far back so they can still hear my harmonies. So we had beautiful moments."
Another cast member the group recently lost was Natalie Desselle-Reid, who plays evil stepsister Minerva. Her onscreen sister Veanne Cox remembers instantly clicking with the actress, who died of colon cancer last year, saying "I met her in the audition. We went into the audition room together and we fell in love from the moment we met. And it was, there was never a challenge with her to make something funny. She was this naturally hilarious human being, both onscreen and off."
Thinking about his scenes with Reid, Cox, and Peters, the family Ellas as he calls them, Alexander remembers "They did like one rehearsal, first rehearsal, some little quirky scene. And I went 'These women have this down.' They had worked out the family dynamic of how these sisters were different and who took after who, and it was just a great little comic trio. And I don't think the three of you had a nanosecond to figure out how you were going to execute all that. But it was just this very natural chemistry,"
Peters agrees, positing "We just appreciated everyone and trusted each other and enjoyed each other and let each other do their little thing."
Lastly, while he wasn't on camera, executive producer Craig Zadan played a vital role in the making of the film according to Victor Garber. "Craig was one of the most influential people I think, in a lot of our lives," the actor who plays King Maximillian says of the producer. Discussing the legacy of Zadan and his business partner Neil Meron, who together were the most prominent producers of stage to screen musical adaptations, Garber states "They loved show business, and we need more people like that because we're gonna—we have to a lot of steps to make to get back there."
See the cast pay tribute to their colleagues and more in the full cast reunion above.
Rodgers & Hammerstein's Cinderella begins streaming on Disney+ at the stroke of midnight on Friday, Feb. 12. EW will be co-hosting a live viewing party on Friday at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT along with Concord Theatricals, on behalf of the Rodgers & Hammerstein Organization. Viewers can use #Cinderella1997 and follow along on Entertainment Weekly's Twitter, Rodgers & Hammerstein on Twitter and Instagram, and Cinderella on Twitter and Instagram for trivia throughout the event, as well as a chance to win some great prizes.
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