Cabin in the Sky is a 1940 American musical with music by Vernon Duke, Lyrics by John La Touche, and a musical book by Lynn Root. The musical premiered on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre on October 25, 1940. It closed on March 8, 1941 after a total of 156 performances. It was directed by Albert Lewis and staged by George Balanchine. The Broadway production starred Ethel Waters as Petunia Jackson, Dooley Wilson as Little Joe Jackson, Katherine Dunham as Georgia Brown, Rex Ingram as Lucifer Junior, and Todd Duncan as The Lawd’s General.
The motion picture based on the musical was produced by Metro- Goldwyn-Mayer and released in 1943. The film version of Cabin in the Sky also starred Waters as Petunia and Ingram as Lucifer Junior. Eddie “Rochester” Anderson of Jack Benny fame took over the role of Little Joe, Kenneth Lee Spencer portrayed The General, and Lena Horne co-starred as the temptress Georgia Brown in her first and only leading role in an MGM musical. Louis Armstrong was also featured in the film as one of Lucifer Junior’s minions, and Duke Ellington and his Orchestra have a showcase musical number in the film.
Musical number Shine from the movie Cabin in the Sky. Bubbles, the Duke Ellington Orchestra and the Hall Johnson Choir
Club Scene with Lena Horne and Eddie “Rochester” Anderson with song and dance number featuring Ethel Waters and John Bubbles
John William Sublett was born in Louisville, Kentucky on February 19, 1902. He was a multi-talented vaudeville performer, dancer, singer and entertainer known by his stage name John W. Bubbles. In 1919 he formed a partnership Buck and Bubbles, with Ford L. “Buck” Washington. Buck played the stride piano and singing while Bubbles tapped.
The two appeared in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1931 and were the first black artists to appear at Radio City Music Hall. On November 2, 1936, they were the first black artists in television history, performing live in the inaugural program of the world’s first scheduled television service at the Alexandra Palace, London. John W. Bubbles was chosen by George Gershwin to create the role of Sportin’ Life in his opera Porgy and Bess in 1935. Sublett performed the role occasionally for the next two decades.