Written By: Eliza Berman
More than 100 million viewers (in more than 60% of U.S. households) tuned in to CBS on the evening of March 31, 1957 to watch Julie Andrews played the title role in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s TV adaptation of Cinderella—the only musical the pair ever wrote for television.
Most saw the show in black and white; only a small percentage of viewers had color receivers. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella served as a vehicle for Andrews, who was just coming off a stint on Broadway in My Fair Lady. Though TV musicals were common during the 1950s, they were mostly adapted from stage musicals. Cinderella, on the contrary, skipped the stage and went straight to TV.
The 90-minute program, LIFE wrote soon afterward, told “the story of a slightly sophisticated, uncindery Cinderella whose evil stepfolk are clowns and whose magical life is filled with music.” A review in TIME praised Andrews’ performance (she “fitted the heroine’s role as if it were a glass slipper”) and Rodgers’ music (“the hero of the evening”) but panned Hammerstein’s script (“which kept shifting uneasily between the sentimental and the sophisticated, and making each seem lamer than the other”).
Andrews received an Emmy nomination for her performance and continued to star onstage and on the small screen until 1964’s Mary Poppins launched her film career. Andrews saw a similarity in Cinderella and in her earlier turn as Eliza Dolittle. My Fair Lady, Andrews said in an interview, is “the best Cinderella story, really.”
Liz Ronk edited this gallery for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.