David Belasco opened the Stuyvesant in October 1907, having already bequeathed his name on his 42nd St playhouse, now the New Victory. When he relinquished the 42nd St theatre in 1910, he immediately renamed the Stuyvesant as the Belasco. He provided himself with a duplex apartment above the theatre that had the décor of a Gothic church, and housed much of his theatrical memorabilia. Following his death, the theatre was rumored to be haunted by his ghost, until it was banished by the risqué production, Oh Calcutta!. The theatre came under Shubert ownership in 1948.
The Belasco's inaugural production was A Grand Army Man (1907), with a cast that included Antoinette Perry, the namesake of the Tony Awards®. Over the next two decades, David Belasco produced and directed nearly 50 shows, many of which he also wrote. Notable productions include The Warrens of Virginia (1907) featuring Cecil B. DeMille and Mary Pickford, Polly with a Past (1917), Lulu Belle (1926), It’s a Wise Child (1929) starring Humphrey Bogart, and Belasco’s last production, Tonight or Never (1930).
In the late 1930s, the innovative Group Theatre called the Belasco home with shows such as Clifford Odets’s Awake and Sing! (1935) and Waiting for Lefty (1935), Golden Boy (1937), Rocket to the Moon (1938) and The Gentle People (1939). Among Group Theatre actors and directors were such luminaries as Luther Adler, Stella Adler, Morris Carnovsky, Lee J. Cobb, Howard da Silva, Frances Farmer, John Garfield, Elia Kazan, Karl Malden, Sanford Meisner, and Sylvia Sidney.
The 1940s and 1950s at the Belasco included John Barrymore’s final Broadway appearance in My Dear Children (1940), Johnny Belinda (1940), Kiss Them for Me (1945) with Judy Holliday, and The Madwoman of Chaillot (1948). After four years as a radio playhouse for NBC, the Belasco returned to theatrical legitimacy with The Solid Gold Cadillac (1953) starring Josephine Hull, The Flowering Peach (1954) and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (1955).
All the Way Home (1960) featuring Arthur Hill, Lillian Gish and Colleen Dewhurst, John Osborne’s Inadmissible Evidence (1965) and The Killing of Sister George (1966) led up to some of the more alternative productions of the 1970s. Oh Calcutta! (1971), the nude revue, was followed by The Rocky Horror Show (1975). For Rocky Horror, the Belasco was transformed into a nightclub. In the 1990s, Tony Randall’s National Actors Theatre called the playhouse home, presenting The Crucible, A Little Hotel on the Side, and The Master Builder all during the 1991-92 season. Two highly acclaimed British imports took up residence in the 1990s: Hamlet (1995) starring Ralph Fiennes and A Doll’s House (1997) starring Janet McTeer.
2001 brought the first Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies, followed by Terrance McNally’s Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune (2002) starring Edie Falco and Stanley Tucci. Recent productions include Julius Caesar (2005) with Denzel Washington and the Tony winning revivals of Awake and Sing! (2006) and Journey’s End (2007). The revival of Joe Turner's Come and Gone (2009) followed, prompting a visit by President Barack Obama.
Belasco conceived the auditorium of the Belasco Theatre as a living room. He was a proponent of the “Little Theater” movement, which held that the dramatic experience depended partly on the proximity of the audience to the actors, and the shallow depth of the Belasco auditorium accomplishes just that. George Keister was commissioned to design the theatre, with Everett Shinn producing murals (18 of them) and other interior décor. The playhouse is Keister’s earliest surviving theatre; he later designed 12 others, including the Apollo in Harlem. His choice of the neo-Georgian style, often used for residences, complemented Belasco’s desire for theatrical intimacy. The theatre also boasted a state-of-the-art lighting board capable of producing magical lighting effects. With its freight elevator connecting the basement shops with the stage, it set the technological standard for theatre design. In 2010, the historic Belasco was restored to its former grandeur.
Details on the Belasco Theatre's Accessibility
Access Into Theatre: Theatre is not completely wheelchair accessible. There are 2 steps to box office/lobby. The side entrance has no steps. Please be advised that where there are steps either into or within the theatre, we are unable to provide assistance.
Accessibility by Seating Section
Orchestra Location: Seating is accessible to all parts of the Orchestra without steps. There are no steps to the designated wheelchair seating location.
Mezzanine Location: Located on 2nd level, up 1 flight of stairs. Once on the Mezzanine level, there are approximately 2 steps up/down per row. Entrance to Mezzanine is behind row H.
Balcony Location: No elevator, stairs only. Once on the Balcony level, there are approximately 2 steps up/down per row. The entrance to the Balcony is behind row F.
Handrails: Available at the end of every stepped seat row in the Mezzanine and Balcony.
Located in lobby. Accessible at 54".
Wheelchair accessible restroom available.