Apollo Theater celebrates 75 years
Cyril Josh Barker | 4/12/2011, 4:39 p.m.
This week the Apollo Theater marked its 75th anniversary with the announcement of new programs, new shows and new attractions for the upcoming season.
Considered the jewel of 125th Street, the theater takes responsibility for not only being a staple to the Harlem community but also a world landmark for launching the careers of Michael Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald and Alicia Keys.
On Tuesday, a star-studded lineup, along with Apollo Theater Foundation President and CEO Jonelle Procope, presented upcoming events and programs for the celebration. Dionne Warwick, Savion Glover and Chuck Jackson, all of whom credit the Apollo for the start of their careers, accompanied Procope.
"Since 1934, the Apollo has had an enormous impact on American culture and has been the launching pad and nurturer of literally thousands of performers, many of whom have gone on to become legends," Procope said. "This is the very stage where Elle Fitzgerald invented scat when she performed in Amateur Night."
The chairman of the Apollo Theater's board, Richard Parsons, said that while people like Fitzgerald have graced the stage and become stars, the Apollo has always been a beacon for what's next in music. Parsons said that while the anniversary is celebrating the past, the Apollo's future is also a focus.
"With the 75th anniversary season, we're celebrating our mission of innovation in the next 75 years by looking ahead," said Parsons. "We have and will continue to push the boundaries of new art forms in American popular culture."
In a statement released earlier this week, U.S. Rep. Charles B. Rangel lauded the theater. "I congratulate the Apollo Theater on its 75th anniversary season kickoff and its long-time success in show-casing many of the world's greatest entertainers. I also congratulate the Apollo Theater Foundation President and CEO Jonelle Procope and Board Chairman Richard D. Parsons for their leadership and their efforts in putting together this celebration. Additionally, I want to thank Percy Sutton who, although he could not be with us, saved the Apollo Theater and made this day possible," he said. "Our district is proud to serve as the home of the Apollo and deeply appreciates all it has done for the community."
From the end of January through 2010, the Apollo has a number of programming highlights lined up for the anniversary celebration.
Apollo visitors will continue to enjoy the world-renowned Amateur Night. On Wednesday, the Apollo celebrated Amateur Night with a birthday party for the community hosted by KISS-FM personality Talent and a performance by rapper Ron Browz.
Other events for the upcoming season include a concert on February 9 featuring John Legend kicking off the Heineken New Legends series. In March, the Apollo is partnering with Carnegie Hall's Honor! Festival,curated by Jessey Norman, which will feature a concert and panel discussion on spiritual and gospel music.
In November, the Apollo will kick off the much-anticipated national tour of the musical "Dreamgirls." The musical, being directed and choreographed by Bobby Longbottom, begins its opening scene at the Apollo's Amateur Night. Last November the Apollo hosted an open audition for lead roles of the show.
The Apollo Theater will also host several free open house tours for four weekends in February and March. Tours of the theater will be led by historian and tour guide Billy Mitchell. "Our anniversary season has been designed to reflect our extraordinary role as one of America's most important cultural resources," said Procope. "New talent will continue to stretch our boundaries, legendary performers will continue to grace our stage and our incredibly rich history will be magnified through the lenses of our many program partners."