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Theater Stories: GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY, The Ghost of Impresario David Belasco & More About The Belasco Theatre


Learn history, fun facts and more about The Belasco Theatre!

Theater Stories: GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY, The Ghost of Impresario David Belasco & More About The Belasco Theatre

It is impossible to walk into a Broadway theatre, or simply just think of a Broadway theatre, without immediately connecting a memory to it. Every Broadway theatre is filled with a rich and colorful history, brimming over with stories of the stars who graced its staged, legends that were made within its walls, and the feelings we all have of looking back and thinking "I saw a Tony winning performance in that theater" or "I wish I'd seen that performance in that theater."

Whether a theater has a history that's a hundred years old or closer to forty, every Broadway theater tells a story, each one filled with fun facts you never knew!

With our new series, Theater Stories, we're bringing you tidbits you may have never heard, tales you never thought to ask about and more, giving you a better look into the history of Broadway theatres, as well as a leg-up on your next theater-trivia night.

What is the history of the Belasco Theatre?

The Belasco Theatre was built in 1907 by David Belasco and designed by architect George Keister. Originally called Stuyvesant Theatre, the theatre boasted Tiffany lighting and ceiling panels (which remain in the theater today, having been restored in 2010!) and sweeping murals by artist Everett Shinn. The first show to open at the Belasco Theatre (on October 16, 1907) was the musical A Grand Army, starring none other than Antoinette Perry, the co-founder of the American Theatre wing, and the person for whom the Tony Awards are named after! David Belasco attached his name to the theatre in 1910.

Who was David Belasco?

Theatre impresario David Belasco was a producer, director, and playwright, who lived from 1853 to 1931. During his career, Belasco produced, directed, or wrote more than 100 Broadway plays including Du Barry, Hearts of Oak, The Heart of Maryland, and more, and launched the careers of Barbara Stanwyck, Mary Pickford, James O'Neill, Lenore Ulric and others! Belasco was a major figure in theTheater Stories: GIRL FROM THE NORTH COUNTRY, The Ghost of Impresario David Belasco & More About The Belasco Theatre theater world and had a massive influence on the ways in which shows were produced. He was a pioneer of lighting in the theater, building with Louis Hartmann what some say to be the first spotlight on Broadway, and eschewing footlights for lights below floor level, concealed from the audience. The shows he produced utilized set and lighting design in ways that had never been done before. For the show The Girl of the Golden West (1905) a play written, produced and directed by Belasco, the effect of a color-changing sunset was created for the first time, using colored gelatin in front of a light.

Did you know that musicals are a rarity for this theatre?

The Belasco theatre has been home to many shows, but unlike a lot of the other Broadway houses, this theatre has housed many more plays than it has musicals! The musicals that have been staged in the Belasco theatre include Oh! Calcutta!, Ain't Misbehavin', The Rocky Horror Show, Follies, Passing Strange, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, End of the Rainbow, Hedwig and the Angry Inch and more. Some of the Belasco's well-known plays include A Raisin in the Sun, The Crucible, American Buffalo, Golden Boy, Network and others.

What notable actors have starred in productions at the Belasco Theatre?

Many stars have graced the Belasco stage! Marlon Brando starred in his first big hit at the Belasco Theatre, Maxwell Anderson's Truckline Cafe. The original production of A Raisin in the Sun in 1959 starred Sidney Poitier (who at 93 is currently oldest living and earliest surviving Best Actor Academy Award winner) and Ruby Dee (8 time Emmy-Award nominee and awardee of the National Medal of Arts). Other stars who have performed on the Belasco stage include William Holden, William H. Macy, André DeShields, Laura Benanti, Patti LuPone, Neil Patrick Harris, and many others!

What show currently calls the Belasco Theatre home?

Girl from the North Country began previews on February 7th, 2020 and opened on Broadway on March 5th, 2020. Featuring a book by Conor McPherson and the songs of Bob Dylan, the musical features Todd Almond, Jeannette Bayardelle, Jennifer Blood, Law Terrell Dunford, Matthew Frederick Harris, Caitlin Houlahan, Robert Joy, Tony Award nominee Marc Kudisch, Luba Mason, Ben Mayne, Tom Nelis, Tony Award nominee David Pittu, Colton Ryan, Jay O. Sanders, John Schiappa, Austin Scott, Kimber Elayne Sprawl, Rachel Stern, Chiara Trentalange, Bob Walton, Chelsea Lee Williams, and Mare Winningham. The show features Bob Dylan's songs "Like a Rolling Stone", "Make You Feel My Love", "Forever Young", "Tight Connection to My Heart (Has Anybody Seen My Love)", "Sign on the Window" and many more. The musical was only able to run for about a week of performances before being shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is currently set to reopen whenever Broadway's lights come back up in 2021.

Did you know that David Belasco built an apartment above the theater?

Belasco, who was known as an eccentric personality, built a ten-room duplex above the theater in 1909. He lived there until his death in 1931. An elevator brought guests directly up to the apartment, which featured a vast theatrical library, a steam room, a pew from Shakespeare's church, a lock of Napoleon's hair, a dance room, a peephole so he could spy on shows going on below, and more. After Belasco died in 1931, the apartment was abandoned and left empty. In 1955, The Shuberts saved a large amount of décor, using it it to create the 'Belasco Room' in the Sardi building.

The Belasco Theater Ghost

The Belasco Theatre is one of a handful of Broadway theaters that is said to have a ghost roaming the space! The ghost of David Belasco was known to haunt the theater, with some performers even claiming to have spotted him during performances. The last sighting of David Belasco's ghost occurred at a performance of Oh! Calcutta! which opened at the theater in 1971.

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