Belasco, the Bishop of Broadway

David Belasco

David Belasco

The Belasco Theater, 111 West 44th Street, is to my mind, the most beautiful theater in NYC  It was built in 1907; originally named the Stuyvesant  and renamed after Belasco in 1910. David Belasco, known as ‘the Bishop of Broadway,’ (a tad odd for a nice Jewish boy but he loved the appellation and went around in a sort of clerical collar), had the theater built as he wanted it, complete with Tiffany ceiling panels and other Tiffany lights as well as magnificent woodwork and murals.  In 2010 , the theater, which has been owned by the Shubert Organization since 1948, underwent a massive restoration to bring it back as much as possible to the condition it was in when Belasco was alive.

Belasco Theater interior - photo Rick Bruner, New York Landmarks Conservancy

Belasco Theater interior –
photo Rick Bruner, New York Landmarks Conservancy

I had the chance to see the theater inside and out thanks to work as a volunteer with the New York Landmarks Conservancy which gave the coveted Lucy G. Moses Preservation Award to the theater for interior renovation in 2011. The theater is small with 1000 seats and has two balconies so it’s not suitable for all productions. In the company of Thomas Stein, the Shubert project coordinator for the renovation,  we started our visit onstage and then went to view the star’s dressing room which is relatively small but at least it’s a single with its own shower and toilet. As you go up, dressing rooms and accompanying plumbing are more, um, democratic.


The  2011 renovation was overseen by designer Francesca Russo who brought  back the cozy ‘living room’ atmosphere Belasco envisioned. Downstairs, a series of murals by Chmielewski depicts scenes from Rienzi, a Wagner opera I’d never heard of, that includes a portrait of a

Lights from Belasco stage, photo Rick Bruner, New York Landmarks Connservancy

Lights from Belasco stage, photo Rick Bruner, New York Landmarks Connservancy

pope with Belasco’s face.



Lighting was enormously important to Belasco who wanted his productions to have a natural look. Belasco is credited with helping develop modern stage lighting to evoke mood and setting. Beginning in February, 2017, Joe Mantello and Sally Field will be at the theater in The Glass Menagerie. I can’t speak about the production but the theater is glorious.

Here’s a bit of a jump. Among Belasco’s theatrical endeavors was writing Madam Butterfly which was later adapted as the libretto for Puccini’s opera of the same name. Madam Butterfly–Japan–teriyaki salmon, yes? Why not?


Teriyaki Salmon from Gordon Ramsey

2 piece of fresh ginger, finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced (I’d use one if I used garlic at all)

3 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp maple syrup

1 tbsp mirin (rice wine)

Olive oil

4 salmon fillets Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Put the ginger and garlic into a bowl and mix with the soy sauce, maple syrup, mirin and a drizzle of olive oil.

Place the salmon fillets in a dish, season with salt and pepper and pour the sticky dressing over them. Cover with film (as in Saran wrap)  and set aside in the fridge to marinate for up to 2 hours, but at least 20 minutes.

Put a large frying pan over a medium heat and add a dash of oil. When hot, add the salmon, skin side down, reserving the marinade. Cook for 2 minutes, then pour in the reserved marinade and cook for a further minute or so, until the salmon fillets are opaque halfway up the sides. Turn them over and cook on the other side for 3–4 minutes, basting with the sauce so that the salmon is well coated. Add a splash of water if the sauce is too thick.

Serve the salmon fillets on individual plates, spooning over any teriyaki sauce left in the pan.

Belasco was a stickler for detail so perhaps you’d like to summon his ghost,(said to have haunted the theater until Oh! Calcutta played there), and serve sake with dinner. No? Your call.

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5 Responses to Belasco, the Bishop of Broadway

  1. Elayne Glotzer says:

    Dear Mari.

    As usual. a delightful., informative, and interesting piece. Thanks so much. As for
    the drink accompanying the salmon fillets would it would it be crass to suggest a nice

  2. Peter says:

    Thanks for the tour of the Belasco – most interesting,,,
    As to the “Madam Butterfly–Japan–teriyaki salmon, yes? Why not?”
    I add “Ah So!”

  3. marilyn katz says:

    Loved this insider’s tour – historically fascinating and the photos were glorious.
    Thank you, Mari.

  4. Elinor Spalten says:

    A pleasure as always! Beautiful photos and recipe. Thanks! Elinor