Watch CBS News

CBS New York goes behind the curtain at The Apollo's new Victoria Theater space

CBS New York goes behind the curtain at The Apollo's new Victoria Theater space
CBS New York goes behind the curtain at The Apollo's new Victoria Theater space 02:45

NEW YORK -- The historic Apollo Theater is celebrating its 90th anniversary with its first-ever expansion, into another historic theater along 125th Street. CBS New York got an exclusive first look behind the curtain at the historic Victoria Theater.

There is an extra buzz in the air of the Apollo, and it is not coming from the old light fixtures.

"If I could describe it, you know, imagine butterflies in your stomach all the time," said Apollo's executive producer Kamilah Forbes. "That's what it feels like, the energy around the building."

A few doors down, Forbes shows off the shining Victoria Theater, restored as part of the Apollo's expansion plan. The venue features two small stages, seating 99 and 199 guests each.

Storytelling rap duo Soul Science Lab, made up of Chen Lo and Asanté Amin, is bringing their first musical to the stage for the space's first performance. The Renaissance Mixtape blends genres through a band and DJ, as the performers transport the audience through Harlem's history.

"It's incredible to be here at this point," Lo said, "paying homage to them, but also bringing something new and pushing it into the future."

He and Amin describe the experience in one word, quantum.

"It feels quantum because it feels very much new, but it feels ancient at the same time," said Amin. "It feels like this is new territory, but it also feels like we've been here before."

A gallery exhibit in the lobby explores snapshots from each theater's iconic moments, alongside daily life in Harlem across the decades.

"Within all the change that's happening right now in Harlem, it is firmly rooted to consistently keep our mission alive and at the forefront," Forbes said, "and that is the preservation, but also the constant advancement and forward looking of Black culture."

Two additional spaces at the Victoria allow the Apollo to invest in local artists and open opportunities for new events to connect to the community.

"This is Apollo's stake in saying, despite whatever is happening in the world, we're going to continue to boldly dream and imagine a future for ourselves," said Amin. "And as long as we keep planning those like artistic seeds, it can happen."

"Yeah, and a lot of young black artists who are doing innovative work often don't get opportunities on this level," agreed Lo. "They don't get the resources and the time and the support and the ability to create something from nothing."

Now the team will turn to the Apollo's main stage for extensive repairs there, including a reimagined lobby, complete with a café and welcoming windows.

"With a lot of New York theaters, you can't really see in, you know, you just see like a peek into the doorway," said Forbes. "But our idea for this expansion is really to expand our lobby and a transparent way and inviting the rest of the community in."

Interactive kiosks will invite guests to feel inspired by the space and all its memories, as they imagine the landmark's future impact.

"Yes, we have been around for 90 years," said Forbes, "but we as a staff now in leadership are committed to looking forward to the next 90."

To learn more about the Apollo's yearlong anniversary celebration, click here.

Have a story idea or tip in Harlem? Email Jessi by CLICKING HERE.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.