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The Apollo at 90: Harlem legend Leslie Uggams recalls doing ‘29 shows a week’ at the iconic theater

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Leslie Uggams made her debut at Harlem’s historic Apollo Theater in 1952, she instantly won over the notoriously tough crowd as the “extra added attraction” on a bill with jazz great Louis Armstrong as headliner.“It was terrific … They loved me,” Uggams, now 81, told The Post about her 20-minute act, which included singing, tap-dancing and impressions. “I remember one of the songs was ‘When You’re Smiling.’ And another song was ‘Exactly Like You.’ And also ‘On the Sunny Side of the Street.’ ”The Harlem native — who earned her coveted spot on the Apollo stage by repeatedly winning a radio contest — wasn’t even nervous about not getting the local love when she was known as “Little Leslie Uggams.”“I was a ham,” she said with a laugh. “I loved singing and performing.

So, you know, I wasn’t really shy when I came out.”Seventy-two years later, Uggams — a Tony-winning star of stage and screen, from the groundbreaking ’70s miniseries “Roots” to the blockbuster “Deadpool” movie franchise — has earned her velvet seat as an Apollo legend as the iconic institution celebrates its 90th anniversary.Nine decades after the landmark theater opened on Jan.

26, 1934 — with a “Jazz a La Carte” performance featuring singer Aida Ward, Benny Carter and His Orchestra, and future “Amateur Night” emcee Ralph Cooper — the Apollo will salute 90 years of soul-lifting showtimes with its annual spring benefit on Tuesday night.

Babyface — who on Monday joined the likes of Little Richard, James Brown and Aretha Franklin with his induction into the Apollo Walk of Fame — will be honored with the inaugural Legacy Award.

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