Uptown: “Harlem Song” Dramatic Downtown: “Shanghai
C. Wolfe’s, “Harlem Song,” at the legendary
Apollo Theater, tells the history of Harlem through a 90-minute
revue, combining songs, dances, films, and interviews. This
is an enjoyable, but not groundbreaking, history lesson for
everyone. Monday’s 11 a.m. show is for students (to order
the teacher’s guide, call 212-977-1100). The $4-million
revue was created to attract tourists to newly revived Harlem
and its world famous Apollo, now undergoing a multi-million
Wolfe, (“Bring in Da’ Noise/ Bring in Da’
Funk”), the producer at the New York Public Theater, crams
a lot into a fairly brief experience. Here is an oral history
of Harlem, a visit to the old hotspots, and a feel-good message
about the future, expressed through first rate dancing, from
cakewalks and jitterbug to shake, and marvelous blues, ballads
and gospel. Interspersed are video clips of Harlem residents
reminiscing about their beloved neighborhood. Their comments
are fascinating. Biographical notes would be a valuable addition
to the printed programs. Atmospheric old film-footage is projected
above Riccardo Hernandez’s spare, but innovative set.
The talented 16-person ensemble portrays, in 11 segments, defining
moments in Harlem history. One of the most memorable, “The
Depression” features fabulous dancing at a rent party,
which Harlemites back then paid to attend as a way of raising
rent money. This is followed by a ballad, “Here You Come
With Love,” tenderly rendered by Queen Esther. The show
pays brief attention to the neighborhood’s decline after
World War II.
Music includes classics like Billy Strayhorn’s “Take
the A Train” (here in Spanish Coje El A Train by
Nilo Cruz) and new numbers with lyrics by Wolfe and music by
Zane Mark, conductor of the on-stage orchestra, and Daryl Waters.
Jules Fisher’s and Peggy Eisenhauer’s evocative
lighting, Paul Tazewell’s period costumes, and Ken Roberson’s
right-on choreography provide stunning moments throughout.
On the serious side, not-to-be-missed downtown at the Quad is
the award-winning movie, “Shanghai Ghetto,” a feature
documentary about Jewish refugees who escaped the Holocaust
in the only place open to them—Shanghai, China. (Apollo
Theater, 235 West 125 Street, Saturday, Sunday and Monday; tickets,
212-307-7171; $20-$50; for film timings, call 777-FILM.)#
Update, Inc., P.O. Box 20005, New York, NY 10001.
Tel: (212) 481-5519. Fax: (212) 481-3919.Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
All material is copyrighted and may not be printed without express
consent of the publisher. © 2002.