Writer Ted Fox and artist James Otis Smith bring to life Harlem’s legendary theater in this graphic novel adaptation of Fox’s definitive, critically acclaimed history of the Apollo.
Since its inception as an African-American theater in 1934, the Apollo, and the thousands of entertainers who performed there, have led the way in the presentation of swing, bebop, rhythm and blues, jazz, gospel, soul, funk and hip-hop—along with the latest in dance and comedy. The Apollo has nurtured and featured thousands of artists, many of whom have become legends. The beauty they have given the world—their art—transcends the hatred, ignorance, and intolerance that often made their lives difficult. Today, the Apollo enjoys an almost mythical status. With its breathtaking art, this graphic novel adaptation of Showtime at the Apollo brings to life the theater’s legendary significance in music history, African American history, and to the culture of New York City.
When Fox, "a wet-behind-the-ears white kid with few bona fides," began asking about Harlem's then-dilapidated Apollo Theater for his landmark 1983 history, the response was immense. As recounted in this updated graphic adaptation, Dionne Warwick called Fox and said, "I've been waiting my whole life for somebody to tell that story!" Her referrals connected Fox to a trove of legends including Sammy Davis Jr., Gladys Knight, and Ahmet Ertegun who filled Fox's notebooks with stories about how one theater became the lodestar for America's black music and culture. A onetime vaudeville house, the Apollo became a proving ground for most of the 20th century's great musicians (from Ella Fitzgerald and Lionel Hampton to Jimi Hendrix and James Brown), plus comedians such as Redd Foxx and "hoofers" such as Bill "Bojangles" Robinson. Later, the Apollo's raucous amateur nights broke or toughened performers from Lauryn Hill to Dave Chappelle. Smith's exuberant lines ably transmit the book's dense energy, as though the narrative is at risk of breaking its bounds, but his thin, rough characterizations don't always do justice to the material. This is a vibrant, exultant, and soulful history.