Having parents as Broadway dancers, I grew up watching a lot of Broadway shows. My favorites include A Chorus Line, Crazy for You, and Contact. While there is nothing as mesmerizing and entertaining as watching a live Broadway show, there are plenty of equally entertaining off Broadway shows in New York that people tend to miss. Not to mention, they are usually loads cheaper and perfect for you budget backpackers. One of these shows is the infamous Amateur Night at the iconic Apollo theatre.
Amateur Night at the Apollo is one of those New York experiences that you just can’t miss. It represents the living soul of African American culture in America. In other words you will never have such a ghetto experience than at the Apollo.
The best part is, since it’s conception in 1939, not much has changed. The Apollo theatre on 125th street in Harlem is the same, the contest is the same and the crowed is just as rowdy. It is a place where the most talented young dancers and singers are either born to stardom of booed off stage by an audience judge with the help of a tap dancing marshal. It is still one of the most interactive, hilarious, and entertaining shows in NYC. And you get all of it for just about 20$.
My first time at Amateur Night at the Apollo
I have never felt as white as when I first made my entrance into the Apollo theatre. Aside from my family an a few other European tourists, everyone was African American. They were energized to the max, chanting “Uptown in da house. Downtown in da house.” Though I tried to embrace my inner ghetto, I was completely overwhelmed and fell back on my reserved white person persona. However it wasn’t long before I could no longer contain myself and my repressed gangsta was released.
The first act consisted of a dance battle between 12 yo kids. And believe you me, they had some serious moves and attitude for their age. Then, for the main portion of the show, 6 contestants from all over the world battled it out. There was a singer from New Orleans, a Dance crew from Newark New Jersey, a dancer from Japan, a singer from China, and a trumpet player from the Bronx.
When the contestant was good, the crowed went wild. They would shout, “Yea gurl!, Do your thing man. Wind him up. Oooo Shit.” I got in on the action too, yelling, “Yeaaaa, that’s right, wind him up.”
However, when the performer was doodie, we would shout just that, and boo. “He be doodie. Nah-unhhh. No wayyy.” When the heckling a boos grew really loud, a tap dancing judge would tap the performer off the stage. At this, the audience, myself included, started cracking up, and cackling, yelling, “That’s right, get off the stage.” Then the comedian host Capone would come out and crack even more jokes on the performer.
At the end of the night, the winner by audience applause was the pop and lock dance crew from Jersey, the robot dancer from Tokyo, and the Chinese singer. However, I think the Japanese guy should have won for being the most original. But then again, being part Japanese, I am a bit biased. In any case, it was one of the most entertaining shows I have ever seen. It was just plain fun and a great medium to release you’re long repressed ghettoe-ness. So if you’re ever in NYC, definitely experience a Broadway show but be sure to also hit up Amateur night at the historic Apollo theatre in Harlem.
Check out the video below for a quick taste of Amateur Night at the Apollo.