Showtime At The Apollo: Back and Better
In its 80 years of existence, the Apollo Theatre has been where stars are born and legends are made. The names include James Brown, Michael Jackson, Ella Fitzgerald, Gregory Hines, Stevie Wonder, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Count Bassie and Luther Vandross. While it is no longer a cultural icon, new leadership and programming are returning it to prominence.
The Apollo is a 1500 seat venue that reached the height of pop culture. It’s renowned Amateur Night (complete with Kiki Shepherd and the Sandman for 80’s babies such as myself) was the precursor to shows such as Star Search and American Idol. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. The reputation preceded itself. Wayne Brady recently stated as an established professional, he still fears Amateur Night t the Apollo. Why you ask? Let’s go to the tape.
13-year-old Lauryn Hill
Machine Gun Kelly was the first rapper to win Amateur Night
After decades, the influence of the Apollo began to waver. Civil rights brought about integration, and large arenas gained popularity. These were troubling trends for Apollo’s business model for it introduced a lot of competition. The theater fell on hard times and went into bankruptcy. In 1991, the state of New York converted it into a not for profit, but it didn’t solve the money woes as the Apollo continued to lose clout.
Former Citi and Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons revived the Apollo with a multimillion dollar renovation, an annual operating budget of 13 million dollars, and an all-star board of directors including billionaire investors Ron Perelman and Paul Tudor Jones, New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, music icon Quincy Jones, and award-winning chef and restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson. The Apollo aims to create a new future and while it is still a work in progress, the board members are enthusiastic even though it is tough to raise money in this environment.
The Apollo is currently in the process of rebranding and informing the public that they offer something new and different. They strive to be a leading music venue as they unveil a slate of new programming. They currently enjoy an annual audience of 100,000 each year. They are no longer just a concert venue, but a global performing arts venue. An example of this is their Music Cafe which is an opportunity for young artists working outside of the mainstream to perform.
80 years of the Apollo
Normally for events such as this, the Apollo would induct a legendary artist. This time, the Apollo will celebrate the Apollo. Artists are coming back to play the Apollo paying homage and tribute to its history and impact on american pop culture and music.
Lasting is the legacy of the Apollo as it has produced artists that have lasted. As long as there is talent, there will be an Apollo.