The world-famous Apollo Theater kicked off its 80th anniversary celebration with a special presentation of its legendary Amateur Night showcase Jan. 29. The not-for-profit Harlem venue's executives also unveiled new programming plans (including another upcoming installment of Apollo Club Harlem, featuring Maurice Hines) and a groundbreaking public crowd-funding initiative.
Throughout its rich history, the Apollo has been known as the birthplace of some of the greatest talents in entertainment, such as Ella Fitzgerald and Pearl Bailey via its trademark Amateur Night talent competition — which set the blueprint for today's massively popular TV shows such as "American Idol," "The Voice" and "The X Factor."
Tony Award winners Dee Dee Bridgewater and Whoopi Goldberg and Grammy Award winners Annie Lennox and Metallica have graced the stage over the years, and President Barack Obama famously sang Al Green lyrics onstage during a 2012 campaign fundraiser.
"It is truly humbling to think about the impact the Apollo Theater has had on the development of our culture for eight decades — from Ella Fitzgerald's scatting for the first time on Amateur Night to jumpstarting the careers of a young Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughn, Lauryn Hill and countless others," said Jonelle Procope, President and CEO of the Apollo. "It is also incredible to look at the impact the Apollo continues to have today."
Notable fare in the vein of Broadway has also made its way through the hallowed halls.
In 2002, a few years after the success of Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk, and during the Broadway launch of Topdog/Underdog, George C. Wolfe was tapped to produce the ambitious musical revue Harlem Song, which shone light on the history of the legendary uptown community, while also serving as a weekend showpiece for the venue while it was undergoing a major renovation.
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