First expansion of Harlem’s historic Apollo Theater to open this winter
Photo by Shahar Azran
Harlem’s world-famous Apollo Theater will open the doors to new performance space in February. The highly anticipated expansion, the first in the institution’s 90-year history, will deliver a new 25,000-square-foot facility with two theaters, office space, a central lobby, and gallery space on the third and fourth floors of the Victoria Theater on West 125th Street. The Apollo Stages at The Victoria will open on February 1.
“I cannot think of a more fitting way to usher in 90 years of The Apollo than with this exciting milestone—an expansion not just in terms of physical space, but of the stories we can tell, and the role we play in our community,” Michelle Ebanks, president of The Apollo Theater, said.
“The Apollo Stages at The Victoria allow us to further the ways we can support artists and organizations in Harlem and across New York while also increasing our programming and educational offerings and providing opportunities for the next generation of creatives of color. We cannot wait to welcome visitors from around the corner and around the globe.”
Designed by Kostow Greenwood Architects, the theater’s design begins with a restored marquee and facade welcoming guests into the Victoria. The entrance leads into a grand lobby with polished marble walls, detailed ornamentation, fluted columns, fireplace mantels, and arboretum-style large mirrors.
Beyond the entry space is a double-height lobby and wide staircase that takes visitors to the second floor, which hosts retail spaces. Adjacent to the lobby is The Laura and Frank Baker Gallery, which serves as a community space for audience members to wait before performances and enjoy refreshments and a variety of exhibitions, including a display of salvaged artifacts from the Victoria Theater’s original auditorium.
The two performance spaces the 199-seat Classical Theater of Harlem and the 99-seat theater for the Harlem Arts Alliance, are designed for full theatrical productions, live music performances, film screenings, special events, and recordings. Both theaters are equipped with a custom-built, retractable seating system that allows for flexibility in layouts and can easily adapt to the needs of any performance.
“The ambitious programming vision called for an efficient, versatile and beautiful new structure to serve patrons, artists, and staff,” Michael Kostow, founding principal of KGA, said. “The design of the new public spaces provides transitional moments from entering the theater and preparing to experience an event. The design of the flexible studio theaters registers the excitement and potential of live performance.”
The theaters follow a “visual rhythm,” with seats in bright, alternating colors. They also both feature flat-floor designs, with acoustically isolated slabs, resilient sprung dance floors and ceilings, dressing rooms, chorus rooms, and wardrobe studios.
Firms Charcoal Blue and Flyleaf have led the design and installation of the new portal entrance to the Apollo Stages. The project integrates state-of-the-art AV components, incorporates Apollo-branded designs, and improves wayfinding for patrons.
The theater’s expansion also includes the creation of new administrative offices that can house up to 90 staff members and visitors. Located on the third and fourth floors, the office space includes open floor plans as well as private offices, a staff kitchen and seating area, a conference room, and gathering spaces.
Due to financial support from the Jerome L. Greene Foundation, all tickets to the Apollo’s programming in the new spaces will cost no more than $20. The first program will be “From the Victoria to The Village: A Visual History of Black Creative Spaces,” which features the work of photographer Alex Harsley and will be on view in the Laura and Frank Baker Gallery from February 1 through April 30.
The Apollo Stages at The Victoria is just one component of the theater’s larger redevelopment project, which includes the construction of two 26-story towers that will bring 191 residential units, new retail spaces, and a Renaissance Marriot hotel to the neighborhood.
The project was first announced in December 2018.