Wolfe sings ‘Song’ at Harlem’s Apollo revue

Theater's 1st open-ended run of any show in its history

NEW YORK — The revue format may have waned on Broadway, but it will be back with a vengeance elsewhere in Gotham in the new year.

Last month, Radio City Music Hall Prods. announced its $30 million extravaganza “Carnivale,” to open in May 2002 and skedded to be an annual event.

Also in May 2002, the Apollo Theater will unveil its new revue, “Harlem Song,” with the Public Theater’s producer, George C. Wolfe, at the helm as writer and director. It will be the famed theater’s first open-ended run of any show in its 88-year history.

Producers are John Schreiber, David Goodman and Frank Wildhorn, composer of “Jekyll & Hyde” and “The Scarlet Pimpernel.”

The concept of a Harlem revue for the Apollo began with Wildhorn, who had worked with Schreiber on the upcoming cable-TV tour Bravo Best, which the two men are producing. They wondered who could best develop and direct an Apollo show about Harlem, and Schreiber immediately suggested they go to Wolfe for possible names.

In conjunction with the Public, Schreiber also is producing and licensing “At Liberty,” Elaine Stritch’s one-woman show, directed by Wolfe.

“I asked George who could do this Harlem show,” Schreiber says, thinking back to last December, “and a day later he came back and sheepishly asked, ‘What about me?’ ”

Wolfe is now writing the revue, working with his “Bring in ‘Da Noise, Bring in ‘Da Funk” composers Daryl Waters and Zane Mark. The show also will feature music by such greats as Duke Ellington and James Brown, although Schreiber said the producers had not yet begun to acquire rights to any pop classic titles.

In an unusual turn for a major legit production, “Harlem Song” will be performed only on Saturdays and Sundays, with three 90-minute shows a day, leaving the Apollo open for more typical programming on the other five nights of the week. “We believe that a good portion of our audience is going to be theatergoers who have never visited Harlem,” says the producer. “We are designing the show as an attraction as much as a destination. Harlem is already the third most visited tourist spot in New York City.”

Schreiber expects the first season to be May 2002 through New Year’s Eve, with the production down during the winter months and reopening in April 2003.

The producer put the capitalization at $4 million, which includes its 2002 and 2003 stagings at the Apollo as well as a 2003 road tour.