A Night in 1934, via the A-Train

February 20, 2013

“Rhythm—that’s what Harlem had,” says Maurice Hines to open his newest production, Apollo Club Harlem. It’s a revue with a live jazz orchestra, showgirls, and tappers, transporting the audience back to the Apollo Theater in the 1930s and ’40s. Dance Magazine cover girl Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards is the highlight of the evening, performing an all too-short tap piece to the 1939 Benny Goodman tune Flying Home. Other strong acts include Tony Award winner Dee Dee Bridgewater belting Ella Fitzgerald and Hines—who’s now 70—singing Nat King Cole’s “L-O-V-E.” Hines also recalls that when he was 11, he first saw his idol, Cole, perform at the Apollo; the same evening his younger brother Gregory discovered the wonders of Sammy Davis, Jr.


Maurice Hines with the Apollo Club Harlem Orchestra
Photo by Shahar Azran, Courtesy the Apollo


But it’s not just the song and dance numbers that set the mood—the entire theater carries a nightclub atmosphere. Tables and chairs replace the orchestra-level seats; ushers take on the role of waiters, serving cocktails and small plates; and attendees are even encouraged to dress in period attire.


A bird’s-eye view of the house (with the lights up)
Photo by Shahar Azran
, Courtesy the Apollo


While the Apollo’s décor wasn’t lavish—white tablecloths and small candlelit table lamps—it transformed the entire evening. It augmented the historical tone of the performance, and it helped keep the audience engaged and involved throughout the night. It’s an idea to consider if you’re planning a repertory showing—a call to a local catering business or a party rental company could help take your event to another level.

Apollo Club Harlem
runs February 18, 22–23 at the Apollo Theater in New York City.

Info: www.apollotheater.org


Photo of Dormeshia Sumbry-Edwards by Shahar Azran, Courtesy the Apollo