Billie Holiday, circa 1947.Credit William Gottlieb, via the Apollo Theater
Billie Holiday often sang about being blue, but when she appears at the Apollo later this year she’ll be closer to translucent. The Apollo has partnered with Hologram USA to bring extended, permanent hologram technology to the theater. Ms. Holiday, who performed at the Apollo in the flesh nearly 30 times, will be the first, and is scheduled to debut around Thanksgiving.
The Apollo says it will be the first theater in the United States to offer continuing presentations with hologram technology. It plans to use the technology to supplement its daytime programming, which focuses on history and education. The theater has an exclusive deal with Hologram USA and it will be the only host of the company’s technology in New York over a two-year period.
Ms. Holiday was a natural first choice for this project: she made her debut at the Apollo at 19 years old and was inducted into the Apollo Hall of Fame for her centennial in April. Her voice will be taken from audio recordings, with her estate’s approval, to create an interactive show.
“Billie is going to be able to talk about the history of the Apollo,” said Jonelle Procope, the Apollo president. “She can take questions from the audience in an interesting way. She can sing some songs.”
Ms. Procope envisions the technology eventually being used to allow older legends to collaborate with live up-and-coming performers, as well as to recreate famous acts, like a well-known James Brown performance from 1962. “When people see this, they’re going understand the vast opportunities that we’ll have to bring some of these performances to life,” Ms. Procope said.
She is confident that the holograms will do the original artists justice. “We would never do anything that would compromise the integrity of the artists or the Apollo,” she said.
Hologram USA has created representations of Buddy Holly, Jimmy Kimmel and Chief Keef, the last of which caused a controversy in Chicago. The company also teamed with the National Comedy Center to create stand-up sets from different eras.
The Apollo’s 2015-6 season will include more than 100 performances, including the signature “Amateur Night.”
Correction: September 11, 2015
An earlier version of the picture caption with this post carried a credit that misstated the photographer's given name. The picture is by William Gottlieb, not Steve Gottlieb.
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