From Dreamgirls to Apollo Club Harlem, Apollo Theater Celebrates 80 Years of Entertainment

By Karu F. Daniels
01 Feb 2014

"There are a lot of people who believe they own the history, the mythology of Harlem. You know, they believe it's their story. But I have to tell the stories that intrigue me," Wolfe said in a 2002 New York Magazine interview. "The piece is about the energy of the day and, ultimately, about the regenerative power of community. That gave me my clues about what I needed to do."


Chester Gregory

The following year, the Chicago Black Ensemble's production of The Jackie Wilson Story culminated its tour with a string of engagements at the Apollo. It was during this tour stop that the musical's star, Chester Gregory, was officially born.

"It changed my life," Gregory, whose Broadway credits include Tarzan, Cry-Baby and Sister Act, told "After performing there, I was connected to the producers of Hairspray and made my Broadway debut 60 days later."

Unknown to many, the Gary, Indiana native previously competed for Amateur Night the year before his career-making role — and was booed off the stage.

"That evening was tough, but I found comfort in a slice of cheese pizza and a prayer," Gregory quipped. "I prayed for a chance to return to the Apollo. Little did I know, the following year, I would be back, with a vengeance, with The Jackie Wilson Story."

A few years later, the vocal dynamo would return back to the Apollo as James Thunder Early in Dreamgirls.

In 2009, a newly revamped revival of Michael Bennett's legendary tuner kicked off its national tour at the Apollo starring a string of Broadway's newest talents. Syesha Mercado (The Book of Mormon), Nikki Kimbrough (A Night With Janis Joplin), Ephraim M Sykes (Motown), Moya Angela (Ghost The Musical), Adrienne Warren (Bring It On: The Musical) and Trevon Davis (Porgy and Bess) also appeared in the Robert Longbottom-helmed production.