Friday, May 13, 2016

A Cinderella Story

Many years ago I saw a TV special--an updated version of Cinderella, set in Harlem during World War II.  It seemed to have disappeared since its original showing.  I certainly never heard anyone talking about it, and I don't believe it's commercially available.  But I'm glad to say, thanks to the internets, it's up on YouTube (in 13 easy-to-watch sections).

It's called Cindy (1978) and features Charlayne Woodard in the title role.  She's a country girl brought to New York by her father (Scoey Mitchell) to live with her evil stepmother (Mae Mercer) and two nasty stepsisters (Alaina Reed-Hall and Nell Carter).  I could tell you the rest, but I think you already know the plot, though Cindy has a few twists the original doesn't.

It's done as a musical (and, in fact, Woodard and Carter were both featured around the same time in the long-running Fats Waller Broadway revue Ain't Misbehavin).  It features original music mixed with music of the period--songs like "Take The 'A' Train" and "Your Feets Too Big."

The entire cast is delightful, including Cleavant Derricks and Clifton Davis as Cindy's beaus and W. Benson Terry as the detective.  Above all, there's Woodard--she's got the wide-eyed innocence of a young Judy Garland, not to mention great pipes.

The secret weapon of the show are its four writers, James L. Brooks, Stan Daniels, David Davis and Ed. Weinberger.  They'd only just finished up with The Mary Tyler Moore Show and were about to do Taxi, so they knew how to create great characters and weren't ashamed of out-and-out jokes.

Some smart producer should buy the rights and turn it into a Broadway show.  And, as long as I'm making helpful suggestion, I'd keep the original music by Stan Daniels, which is quite good, and build an entirely original score around it.

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