Apollo Theater Announces Expansion Plans, Admits Responsibility for Wyclef Jean

Photo: Rudy Sulgan/Corbis

It's showtime for the Apollo. Today the Harlem institution announced an expansion and renovation that will double its size, and add a Hollywood-style walk of fame on 125th Street — but close down the theater in 2010 for nearly a year. The Apollo brought in two of its own Amateur Night breakout stars — uptown's original version of American Idol — to trumpet the project. Wyclef Jean, who said he stopped by on his way to a Letterman taping, first played the Apollo at 15 with his band and "after we didn't get booed, they didn't throw eggs, we felt we had a chance, that we could get anywhere." Leslie Uggams, who became a regular after sharing a bill with Louis Armstrong in 1952 at age 9, said, "We worked like a dog, four shows a day, five on Sunday, but it was the best school I could ever have."

The Apollo's looking to raise $96 million for the project; Quincy Jones and Time Warner's Dick Parsons have already signed on to fund-raise. As for that Walk of Fame, bronze plaques will celebrate such Apollo legends as James Brown, the Jackson Five (Amateur Night winners, '69), and Sammy Davis Jr. Whatever you do, don't tread on Sammy. —Alexandra Peers