It’s “Showtime at the Apollo” — again!
The popular talent showcase, filmed at the historic Harlem theater, will return to network television for the first time in almost a decade on Dec. 5. at 8 p.m. on Fox.
“This will really give us an opportunity to introduce the Apollo and bring the experience to a new generation of viewers and music lovers who may never have seen (the original) ‘Showtime,’ ” says Apollo Theater president and CEO Jonelle Procope, who is also serving as an executive producer on the new show.
The two-hour special, hosted by Steve Harvey, is a retrospective that will touch on the theater’s storied heritage, include clips from the original “Showtime at the Apollo” and new amateur acts.
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The latter will be a big part of the show as it was the heart and soul of the original program and a part of the theater’s heritage for more than 82 years.
Procope calls Amateur Night “the world’s original talent show,” — a precursor to programs like “American Idol” and “The Voice.”
Amateur Night helped launch the careers of artists like James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson and The Jackson Five and D’Angelo.
Other bold-faced names who can trace their roots back to that stage include, Lauryn Hill (who got booed by the audience and then won them over), Destiny’s Child (it was a big moment for Beyoncé) and Ella Fitzgerald.
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“So many of the greatest live performances happened on that stage,” says Reggie Hudlin, an executive producer and the show runner for the revival.
“Showtime at the Apollo” was a popular syndicated television show, which aired on NBC from 1987 to 2008 — in New York it came on after “Saturday Night Live” — and featured music, comedy, dance and other acts.
When the acts were good, the audience went wild. When they were bad — the performers were booed and left the stage in shame.
“It always was the first talent competition to allow audiences to openly interact with the acts,” says Procope. “The audience is as much of a part of the show as the performers.”
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Harvey was its host from 1993 to 2000.
“Steve is simply the perfect host for this,” says Hudlin.
The television event is one of two Apollo theater specials the network has planned.
A second is expected to air in 2017, and if they’re successful the show could open the door for more says Procope. “It’s a good way for us to stick our toe in the water,” she says.
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“Mostly this is a chance to bring the Apollo experience into the digital realm and onto social media,” she says.
“I meet people all the time who tell me they’ve never been to the Apollo, but used to watch ‘Showtime at the Apollo’ — so the idea that we can reintroduce this brand to a whole new group of viewers is really great.”
The show itself has had several incarnations and many hosts, including Whoopi Goldberg, Rick Aviles, Sinbad, Mark Curry, Steve Harvey, Mo'Nique, Christopher "Kid" Reid, and Anthony Anderson. Kiki Shepard served as a co-host from 1987 until 2002.
Behind the scenes, a long-running dispute with the Apollo Theater Foundation finally caused a rift — and the original producers of “Showtime” left in 2002 to start a rival program called “Showtime in Harlem” — that was actually filmed in Brooklyn.
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That version of the show was later moved to California and renamed “Live in Hollywood.” It lasted one season in 2003 with Shepard as host.
A third version of the show, “Apollo Live” aired on BET from 2012 to 2015 with comic Tony Rock as the host.
“We’re happy to be back,” says Procope.Send a Letter to the Editor