Review: Showtime at the Apollo: The Epic Tale of Harlem’s Legendary Theater

Showtime at the Apollo: The Epic Tale of Harlem's Legendary Theater

Growing up n New York, its is not lost on me the mythical status that the city has on the world. As my time in the military showed me, no matter what country you are in everyone has heard of New York City. I would smile with glee while my friends would usually roll their eyes in hate and envy. I remembered growing up and seeing tourists from every part of the country and every part of the world come to see our majestic skyscrapers and the glory of the Statue of Liberty. Then there are the landmarks which inhabits the city’s greatest gift, its people.

I still have fond memories of going to Mets games with my cousins at the old Shea Stadium and how we used to catch the 7 train all over Queens. Then there are the iconic spots like Madison Square Garden, which Michael Jordan called “his favorite place to play.” Which brings me to one would consider the mecca of music in New York, the legendary Apollo Theater. In Ted Fox and James Otis Smith’s Showtime At The Apollo, they bring this iconic hall to life in this larger-than-life history.

We meet the author as he begins his research, as the theater gets closed in 1976, he unearths its history in a bunch of boxes that were about to be thrown away. As we see how Harlem became the place where most people made their bones, as Jazz took its roots in this part of city and Comedians made their names in clubs throughout , but they knew they really made it, if they could make the audiences laugh at the Apollo. As we also meet the Schiffmans, the family that owned and ran the theater, and how they made the theater the one place every black entertainer wanted to be. We also meet one of the icons that made the theater the place it is, Sandman Sims, as he was part of creating the Amateur Night, something that would be replicated in similar places. As Ted Fox, takes us on a journey, decade by decade, of how the time and culture shaped the theater and how its appealed to the masses every single time. By book’s end, we see that through the trials and tribulations, changes of ownership, world events and the people who were the theater’s patrons, that the Apollo persevered.

Overall, the graphic novel is engaging and gives readers a deep dive not only into the Apollo’s history but also Harlem’s. The story by Fox is fascinating, and significant. The art by Smith is breathtaking. Altogether, an excellent history of one of the world’s utmost auditoriums, one that everyone should visit at least once.

Story: Ted Fox Art: James Otis Smith
Story: 10 Art: 9.3 Overall: 9.6 Recommendation: Buy