Apollo Theater unveils 75th anniversary plans

Venue in the midst of $96 million capital campaign

NEW YORK -- Harlem's iconic Apollo Theater will celebrate its 75th anniversary season this year with a slew of activities, including the national launch of a new touring version of musical "Dreamgirls," a fall TV special and a concert series featuring John Legend, among others.

Also, a documentary to be directed by Stanley Nelson and co-produced by Charles Hobson of Vanguard Documentaries is scheduled to hit movie theaters nationwide in early 2011.

The plans for the 75th anniversary of the theater and its signature "Amateur Night at the Apollo" show were unveiled Tuesday by Apollo Theater Foundation chairman Richard Parsons, the former Time Warner chairman who was recently named chairman of Citigroup, and president and CEO Jonelle Procope.

The anniversary season will combine looks into the past -- which helped launch the careers of such performers as Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Michael Jackson, Lauryn Hill and Alicia Keys -- and into the future, organizers said. "We have and will continue to push the boundaries of new art forms in American popular culture," said Parsons.

"Amateur Night" will return under the leadership of new producer Marion Caffey. Its Wednesday season kickoff edition will feature rapper Ron Browz and surprise visits from alumni.

Besides stage shows, September will see a two-hour TV special, to be produced by Ron Weisner, about the Apollo. The foundation didn't immediately say on which network it will air.

And in November, the new touring version of Tony Award-winning "Dreamgirls" will start off at the Apollo.

The not-for-profit foundation that operates the venerable theater is in the midst of a $96 million capital campaign, more than half of which has already been raised. The funds will be used to upgrade and expand the theater's facilities and support future programming.