In the village square, a Herald proclaims: The Prince Is Giving a Ball to celebrate the Prince's 21st birthday. The ladies of the kingdom are thrilled at the prospect of meeting him. Cinderella, whose beloved father has died, takes care of the home of her ill-tempered and selfish stepmother and stepsisters. She carries all of their shopping parcels for them, and when they return home, all three order Cinderella about. Left alone in her corner near the fire, she dreams of living an exotic life as a princess or anything other than a servant (In My Own Little Corner). Meanwhile, the King and Queen get ready for the big celebration (Royal Dressing Room Scene) and the servants discuss the planning for the feast (Your Majesties). They hope that their son will find a suitable bride, but the Prince is a bit apprehensive about meeting all the eager women of the kingdom. The Queen is touched by overhearing the King's discussion with his son and tells him she loves him (Boys and Girls Like You and Me [sometimes omitted, and not sung in any of the telecasts]).
As Cinderella's stepsisters get ready for the Ball, hoping that they will catch the Prince's eye, they laugh at Cinderella's dreams. Finally they leave, and Cinderella imagines having gone with them (In My Own Little Corner (reprise)). Cinderella's Fairy Godmother appears and, persuaded by the fervor of Cinderella's wish to go to the Ball, she transforms Cinderella into a beautifully gowned young lady and her little mouse friends and a pumpkin into a glittering carriage with impressive footmen (Impossible; It's Possible) and she leaves for the Ball.
Cinderella arrives at the palace at 11:30; before she enters, her Godmother warns her not to stay past midnight. The Prince has been bored by the attention of all the young ladies with whom he has had to dance, including the stepsisters. Cinderella's grand entrance immediately attracts everyone's attention and intrigues the Prince. They dance together and instantly fall in love (Ten Minutes Ago). Seeing the Prince with a petite beauty (whom they do not recognize), the stepsisters ask why he wouldn't prefer a substantial "usual" girl like them (Stepsisters' Lament). The Prince and Cinderella dance and find themselves with a private moment, and he declares his love for her (Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful?). As they share a kiss, the clock begins to strike midnight, and Cinderella flees before the magic wears off; but in her haste, she drops a glass slipper.
The next morning, Cinderella's stepmother and stepsisters reminisce about the Ball and find that Cinderella is very intuitive about what it must have been like going to the Ball (When You're Driving Through the Moonlight) and dancing with the Prince (A Lovely Night). Meanwhile, the Prince is searching for the beauty with whom he danced, and who fled so quickly from the Ball. His Herald tries the slipper on all the ladies (The Search). At Cinderella's house, the slipper will not fit any of the ladies. Everyone tries to steer the Prince away from the servant girl, Cinderella, but she is not home; she is in the Palace garden. The prince returns to the Palace dejected by his lack of success. Prodded by the fairy godmother, his Herald tries the slipper on Cinderella. It fits, and the prince recognizes his beloved (Do I Love You Because You're Beautiful? (reprise)). Cinderella and the Prince marry, and all ends happily.