Cabin in the Sky

Music by Vernon Duke
Lyrics by John La Touche
Book by Lynn Root
Directed by Thomas Mills
Musical direction by Barbara Anselmi
Musicals Tonight!
MainStage at the 14th Street Y
344 E14th. St (212/868-4444)
Equity Showcase (closes Nov. 9)
Review by Seth Bisen-Hersh

Cabin in the Sky premiered in 1940. It has been ravishingly revived at Musicals Tonight! as the start of their sixth season. It is a cute, if dated, musical that explores the conflict between good and evil.

The show starts with Little Joe on his deathbed. His wife, Petunia, prays incessantly for God to bring him back to her. It is soon learned that Little Joe has been a big sinner on Earth -- gambling and committing adultery with Georgia Brown. The Devil's son, his Head Man, comes to to bring him down to Hell with his cronies. However, Petunia's prayers are answered and Heaven's General comes down with a band of angels to hear her plea.

God strikes a deal. Little Joe will be returned to Earth and have six months to repent. If he succeeds, he will get into Heaven. The catch is that Little Joe will remember nothing about his near-death experience. Instead, the General and the Head Man stay as spirits. They plot to try to get Little Joe on their side as he struggles to stay faithful to Petunia, even though Georgia Brown tempts him incessantly.

The show is peppered with lovely standards, the most famous one being Taking a Chance on Love. There are also a few traditional spirituals with incredible harmonies, which were performed perfectly by the talented cast.

Musicals Tonight always attracts incredible talent. The ensemble brought the battle of good and evil to life. The standout performer of the show was Joe Wilson, Jr. Wilson truly showed his versatility playing the nefarious, masculine son of the Devil, since one of his last roles was a hilariously effeminate queen in Little Ham. Wilson nailed every line, adding delicious nuances at every chance. He sang beautifully and stole the show with his show-stopping rendition of Do What You Want to Do. He should be on Broadway instead of Off-Off.

Thomas Mills directed as efficiently as always. The pacing is crisp and the staging effective. Mills made use of the actors as set pieces cleverly, as well as using the script binders (this was a concert reading) as various props when possible.

A treat from the past, Cabin in the Sky cutely explores a world where the Devil and God exist and battle over a man's soul.

  Box Score:

Writing: 1
Directing: 2
Acting: 2
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2003 Seth Bisen-Hersh