Amateur Night at The Apollo resumes in-person after COVID pandemic hiatus

HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- Wednesday marks another milestone in New York City's re-opening from COVID-19 amid signs the worst of the pandemic might be over.

"Amateur Night at The Apollo" returns live and in person, and vocalists, rappers, dancers, comedians, musicians, and more will compete for a chance to win a grand prize of $20,000.

Since 1934, legends have launched on the Apollo's famous stage, and that's where I found a new group of hopefuls.

There's even more electricity onstage that usual, because this theater has been dark for so long.

The Apollo management promised that as soon as it was safe, the doors would swing open -- and now, that promise is coming true.

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To be inside is to bear witness to the sights and sounds of a revival. No longer does the world famous venue stand silent and empty as it did for the better part of two years.

During the pandemic, Amateur Night had to be conducted online.

"We couldn't be be more excited about it," Senior Director of Programming Leatrize Ellzy said. "You know, two years of no amateur night at The Apollo. Not only have we been missing it, audiences have been missing it. The world has been missing it. And so we're really excited to have it back, and to think about who are the next stars."

The folks who run Amateur Night like to say, "You better be good or you're gonna be gone," but Harlem's Ajada Reigns from has a plan to prevail.

"I'm just going to sing my heart out," she said. "My mother always tells me, 'Look like an angel, sing like the devil,' so I'm going to get up there and give it my all."

Ashley Yankello, just 14, traveled from Pittsburgh to take her shot.

"My plan is to sing my song, "All I Ask" by Adele, and just to portray the message like I usually do," she said. "And hope that they can connect with the song as much as I can."

Ella Fitzgerald was the first star to be discovered during Amateur Night at The Apollo, and there have been many more since then -- like Luther Vandross and Busta Rhymes. And once again, the young can touch the famed stump known as the "Tree of Hope" for good luck.

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Kofi Boakye, who studies at The Berkeley College of Music, is ready.

"I know for me personally, I'm putting all 10 of these fingers on there and rubbing them as much as I can and get that luck," he said.

Maybe a new star will be born, but first, the performers must face the judgement of the brutally honest members of the audience.

Cheers and jeers are part of a rich tradition at the Apollo, a tradition that can now continue.

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