‘The Apollo’ Spotlights the History of New York’s Most Famous Black Theater

By N. Jamiyla Chisholm Oct 31, 2019

For 85 years, the Apollo Theater has been a self-described “partner in the projection of the African-American narrative” that “envisions a new American cannon centered on contributions to the performing arts by artists of the African diaspora, in America and beyond.” Countless stars have graced its stage, including Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Luther Vandross, Dave Chappelle and Lauryn Hill. On November 6, the world-famous theater’s own story will be told via “The Apollo,” a documentary making its television debut on HBO.

Created by Academy- and Emmy Award-winning director Roger Ross Williams (“Music by Prudence,” “Traveling While Black”), “The Apollo” mixes music, archival and contemporary footage of comedy and dance performances, and behind-the-scenes peeks at the theater team. Interviews with Black luminaries from music, media and literature—including Patti LaBelle, Smokey Robinson, Pharrell Williams and Jamie Foxx—add personal flavor to the narrative about this historical arts center in the heart of Harlem.

Viewers also get to follow the production of writer Ta-Nehisi Coates’ “Between the World and Me,” a project based on his National Book Award-winning title of the same name. The documentary’s website describes it as a “vibrant multimedia stage show [that] frames the way in which The Apollo explores the current struggle of Black lives in America, the role that art plays in that struggle and the broad range of African-American achievement that the Apollo Theater represents.”

For a preview, check out the trailer below, courtesy of HBO: