Modest in size but rich in history, the Apollo Theater is one of New York City’s most iconic performance venues. This theatre played a key role in the Harlem Renaissance movement in which African Americans thrived. The Apollo Theater is known for launching the successful careers of some of the most recognizable names in Jazz, R&B; and other genres associated with black performers. Today, the theatre hosts weekly shows featuring artists from all over the United States and the rest of the world. Click to book your Harlem Sightseeing and Apollo Theater Multimedia walking tour.
Layout and Other Highlights
The Apollo Theater retains its vintage charm that seems timeless in design and appeal. Some of the premier seats are located in the Orchestra section, which includes several exclusive boxes with balconies. Most spectators sit in the Lower Mezzanine or Upper Mezzanine sections.
Having a seating capacity of just more than 1,500, the Apollo Theater is a truly intimate venue that has great acoustics. When the attentive audience is silent, some performers might not even need a microphone or enhanced audio equipment.
One of the most unique features of the venue is Amateur Night, which is essentially an open house for musicians, comedians, and other entertainers from NYC’s underground. Throughout the years, many notable R&B; and hip-hop artists have launched their careers at Amateur Night.
The property that the Apollo Theater currently occupies has a rich history that dates back to approximately 1913. Local architect George Keister is credited with designing the Hurtig and Seamon’s New (Burlesque) Theater.
In its early years, this performance facility enforced a strict policy of racial segregation. In fact, only white patrons were allowed to enjoy the shows at the burlesque theatre. At the end of the Roaring Twenties, Billy Minsky purchased the venue and managed it for a couple of years. The Great Depression quickly led to the demise of the theatre until Sidney Cohen promptly saved it.
In 1934, the Apollo Theater officially opened to mark a new era in the entertainment scene of NYC. More specifically, the renovated hall would serve as an important hub for the thriving musical scene in black Harlem. Vaudeville acts dominated the lineup at the drastically transformed theatre. Duke Ellington, Bill Robinson, and the Berry Brothers were among the most prominent performers in the years leading to World War II.
After the war, the Apollo Theater became a major launching pad for talented African American entertainers who would eventually achieve success in mainstream America. The Jackson 5, Diana Ross, Patti LaBelle, and Marvin Gaye are some great vocalists who have traced their humble beginnings to this intimate venue in Harlem. The iconic singer, James Brown, even recorded some of his early records inside the theatre. Many of these music legends have been inducted into the organization’s hall of fame.
Visiting Apollo Theater
The Apollo Theater is centrally located in Harlem, which makes up a significant portion of northern Manhattan. This historic neighborhood has traditionally been a major cultural and social hub for African Americans.
You can get to the historic performance venue by hopping on a New York City Subway train that stops at the 125 Street station. This underground station gets service along the A, B, C, and D lines that run through most of Manhattan.
More than a dozen Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) buses also circulate the vibrant streets of Harlem. The residential streets surrounding the Apollo Theater have limited parallel parking spaces. Nevertheless, taxis will often find plenty of temporary places to drop off passengers within walking distance of the attraction. It might be a good idea to stop near the relatively quaint streets along Morningside Park or Marcus Garvey Park.
Address: 253 West 125th Street (between Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. & Frederick Douglass Boulevards, also known as 7th & 8th Avenues), New York, NY, 10027
Click here to visit Apollo Theater website.