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Apollo Theater Hopes to Make 'The First Noel' a Harlem Holiday Mainstay

By Dartunorro Clark | November 17, 2016 4:25pm
"The First Noel" is the Apollo Theater's first foray into musical theater. The iconic institution is hoping to make it a mainstay.
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Margot Jordan

HARLEM — The famous Apollo Theater is gearing up for the holiday season.  

This December, the iconic theater is showcasing a Harlem-based holiday musical on its main stage called “The First Noel.”

The musical follows a girl called Noel as she goes from youth to adult.

As an adult, Noel returns home and grapples with the tragedy of her mother’s death, gentrification and relationships, among other issues. Through the grief, she questions her past and how she moves forward.

The musical features original music and modified arrangements of holiday classics ranging from pop, jazz to gospel.

This is the first foray into musical theater for the Apollo, said its executive director, Kamilah Forbes.

“Music is at the core of the Apollo and the African American experience,” she said.

The play was originally commissioned by The Classical Theatre of Harlem, which partnered with the Apollo last year and gave the play a run on its soundstage.

This year, the theater moved it to its 1,500-seat theater, which is 10 times bigger.

The theater's management is pushing to make seasonal plays an annual holiday treat.

“The dream of this show is to complement the holiday season,” said Ty Jones, the producing artistic director of the Classical Theatre of Harlem.

“This is the 21st Century Dickens.”

Director Steve H. Broadnax III said that oftentimes people look to downtown institutions such as Radio City Music Hall for holiday-themed entertainment, but he said Harlem could also produce great work.

“There’s this ideology that downtown is better,” he said. “This is equal, if not better, than downtown.”

Broadnax also said that he was elated that the play moved to the mainstage at the Apollo, given the venue's reputation as a peak for African American performers.

The play features an all African-American cast and creative team. The music and lyrics are by Lelund Durond Thompson and Jason Michael Webb, with choreography by Brian Harlan Brooks.

“This is the top for us," said Broadnax.

“The First Noel” runs from December 10 to 18. Tickets are available at The Apollo Theater Box Office: 212-531-5305 and via Ticketmaster.com. Tickets range in price from $30 to $65. For more info visit: https://www.apollotheater.org/firstnoel/