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Television Tue Nov 27 2012

"Apollo Live" In Chicago


Comedian Tony Rock; photo:

For African-American celebrities, the long-running joke has always been, "You haven't really made it until you're on the cover of Ebony or Jet; and when it comes to television, the same is also true about "Soul Train."

When it comes to live shows, however, a whole other stage marked the pinnacle of one's career--the Apollo Theater in Harlem.

For black performers, much like Chicago's historic Regal Theater served as a regular haunt for live performances, New York's Apollo Theater featured shows from artists from the worlds of music, comedy, and more; and in many cases, was responsible for either making--or breaking--their careers. And while both venues boasted regular appearances from Chicago music icons such as Gene Chandler, The Impressions and The Staple Singers, as well as legends like Aretha Franklin and the late James Brown, it was the Apollo's popular "Amateur Night" that set it apart from the rest.

"Amateur Night," the theater's talent competition, became even more popular during "Showtime at the Apollo," a weekly, syndicated showcase that aired from 1987 to 2008; hosted by comedians including Steve Harvey, Sinbad, Rudy Rush and Mo'Nique, the showcase, taped at the theater, featured aspiring singers, dancers, etc., whose advancement in the competition and dreams of stardom rested solely in the audiences' hands, via cheers or jeers.

Now, four years later, the show is getting new life in the form of "Apollo Live," with the broadcast premiere airing this Thursday, November 29th at 7pm on BET. Hosted by comedian and actor Tony Rock and produced by Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx, the revamped version boasts "judges" who are the some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry: hip-hop star Doug E. Fresh, Michael Bivins of famed R&B groups New Edition and Bell, Biv DeVoe, and the "Empress of Soul" and Apollo legend, Gladys Knight. Or, if you want to capture the essence of the Apollo Theater in person, the same evening, head over to the Funky Buddha Lounge, 728 W. Grand, from 9pm-11pm, for the "Apollo Live Lounge Tour," to see local acts compete for a cash prize in front of a live audience and guest judges.

For more information about "Apollo Live," visit

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Sandra / August 18, 2014 5:10 PM

Fantastic show, just as great as prior eras. I wish they'd do a nationwide tour again, I went to one of the Chicago Apollo amateur contests several years ago (in Symphony Hall) and it was fantastic! So much fun, and great talent too. Wish they'd come back.

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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »


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