As a celebratory precursor to its performance of Duke Ellington’s only opera Queenie Pie in January, the Long Beach Opera presents the 1943 all-black cast musical Cabin in the Sky. Directed by Vincent Minnelli (who was white), CITS has terrific songs by Harold Arlen, EY Harburg and Ellington, yet is steeped in racial and gender stereotypes so unsavory that it remains one of the most painful cinematic viewing experiences on record—regardless of the film’s cultural context. This makes CITS one of the premiere artifacts in black film history, and a visual record that black—and certainly white—audiences need to see. A definitive highlight to the weighty racism, sexism and classism are performances by the astonishing Ethel Waters and Lena Horne, who are so damned good you forget for a moment that they represent the ugly, repressive politics of mammy versus mulatto.
Sat., Nov. 16, 10:30 a.m., 2013