Went to see a preview at the Belasco Theatre yesterday of a new Lincoln Center Theatre Production. The musical is based on Pedro Amodovar’s film Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. David Belasco, a colorful dramatist, producer, actor, director and scenic designer who excelled in amazing and brilliant stage designs, originally opened the theatre known as the Stuyvesant in 1907. Designed by George Keister an architect who also designed the Astor, Earl Carrol, George M. Cohen and Selwyn Theatres, it was considered a hi-tech sensation-the light board had sixty-five dimmers, a stage set that worked on an elevator, studios and a private elevator to Belasco’s private apartment The theatre was renamed the Belasco by Belasco in 1910.
Known as “The Bishop of Broadway,” because of the clerical attire he habitually wore despite having a reputation as a “Ladies Man,” Belasco died in 1931. He left a legacy of hit plays and musicals; producers such as Katherine Cornell and the Group Theatre who leased the theatre continued to produce shows he would proudly have prresented in his theatre. Plays appearing on his stage have won the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Drama Critics Award and many an actor has won the prestigious Tony,
Many actors and members of stage crews believe Belasco’s ghost haunts the theatre. On opening nights, he is sometimes seen sitting in a box seat. Though the private elevator hasn’t been in service for years, the creak of chains in often heard.
The theatre was refurbished before the run of Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and it is a fabulous sight to behold. The ceiling is bejeweled with a mosaic of lights, the walls gleam with polished wood. It’s a fitting home for the musical with its superb multi-talented cast and spectacular scenic effects. I have no trouble believing that Belasco will be in his box seat on opening night and I’m sure the “Bishop” will approve.
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