By Jennifer Glickel
EAST HARLEM — Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Sammy Davis Jr., and Smokey Robinson are just a few of the legendary artists that have graced the stage at the Apollo Theater.
Now artifacts from their performances are starring in a new museum exhibit about Harlem's cultural landmark.
"Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment," which opens on Feb. 8 at the Museum of the City of New York, looks at the history of the historic Apollo through artifacts from its notable performers, such as dresses, suits, shoes, records, and instruments.
"The Apollo is one of New York City's greatest cultural landmarks, and it is a symbol of pride not only for African Americans but for so many New Yorkers," MCNY director Susan Henshaw Jones said in a statement.
"This is much more than an exhibition about music and stardom. It's a chapter in American history that is especially rewarding to consider and understand."
The exhibit takes visitors on a chronological tour through not only the theater's history, but the neighborhood's as well.
Along with video and audio recordings, the spacious gallery is filled with pieces of the Apollo's history from original playbills from the theater's early days as a segregated burlesque hall to Duke Ellington's 1927 score for “Black and Tan Fantasy" to Ray Charles' piano music case and the Beastie Boys' boom box.
Other artifacts include Dizzy Gillespie's sunglasses and fez, James Brown's jumpsuit, a dress worn by one of the Supremes, and Willie Nelson's bandana and shoes.
The exhibit, which is organized by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in collaboration with the Apollo Theater, is on a national tour. It originated in Washington, D.C., and traveled to Detroit before coming to the MCNY.
"Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment" will be on view at the Museum of the City of New York from Feb. 8 to May 1. The MCNY is located at 1220 Fifth Ave. between 103rd and 104th Streets.