New Victory Blog

The New Victory Blog is a place to learn more about New York’s theater for families and the shows we produce. Find out what we do and what we’re passionate about—exploring the arts as a family.
This Post is Courtesy of Tim Dolan of Broadway Up Close Walking Tours.

The beautiful theaters in our Broadway Theater District hold many secrets and stories within their walls. At my company, Broadway Up Close Walking Tours, we have spent years digging up Broadway's past, theater by theater, to bring our guests even closer to the magic of Broadway. With Halloween almost upon us, it feels appropriate to look into the backstage nooks and crannies to see who may still be lurking in the dark…


Leslie Carter
Mrs. Leslie Carter, ghost of the New Vic!
The New Victory Theater has had many different names since it opened in 1900. Originally known as The Theatre Republic when it was built by Oscar Hammerstein I, it was renamed for another Broadway producer shortly afterwards: David Belasco. A little known fact is that there is a ghost still in residence at the New Vic, Mrs. Leslie Carter. She was once Belasco's leading lady and an American stage and silent film actress. She was born Caroline Dudley, but used the stage name Mrs. Leslie Carter throughout her career to spite her husband after a sensational and salacious divorce trial. She quickly rose to fame through her relationship with Belasco and starred in many of his shows. The staff here at the theater have seen and heard signs that she still hangs around the theater, even though she died in 1937. The person who's experienced her presence the most is Colleen Davis, the New Victory Production Manager. Colleen tells a story about how the bow tie of a performer here a couple of years ago went missing. Moments before showtime, Colleen was walking into the dressing room with two of the crew members when all of the sudden, they saw a storage bin fly off of a shelf—flip 180 degrees in midair and land on its lid. When they carefully picked the bin back up, they saw that the missing bow tie was laying right there on the floor. They thanked Mrs. Leslie Carter for helping them find the missing prop and started the show.


David Belasco
David Belasco wearing his priestly garb in 1893. Photo: The New York Public Library, Billy Rose, Theatre Division
Belasco was an eccentric man and one of the founding fathers of our Broadway theater district, but he had one strange quirk: he was always dressed like a Catholic priest, even though he was Jewish! After moving out of The Theatre Republic, Belasco christened a theater on 44th Street The Belasco, in 1910. Shortly after Belasco's death in 1931, it appeared he wasn't finished with his theater. Just before the audience entered for the next opening night following his death, a strange sight was seen in the balcony—a priest! A man in priestly garb was seen standing at the balcony railing before he took his seat and disappeared. This priestly sighting happened for many opening nights afterward and was deemed a good omen for each production. 

Belasco isn't the only spirit to haunt this theater on 44th Street. Many eyewitnesses have recounted seeing a lady in a large, blue dress walking back and forth in the balcony. The woman seems to be one of Belasco’s ex-girlfriends who died in the building in 1925 when she stepped into the elevator to leave his office atop the theater. The elevator had malfunctioned and she fell to her death. During the run of Enchanted April in 2003, disruptive noise from the elevator shaft was heard onstage. Stagehands tried to take the elevator out of the shaft to stop the noise—only to find that the elevator had already been disconnected. Since then, paying loving homage to "the lady in blue," costume designers for productions at The Belasco put one woman in a beautiful blue dress if they can.

Just across 42nd Street, opposite the New Victory Theater, sits one of the most lavish and oldest Broadway theaters: The New Amsterdam. This theater is perhaps best known for The Ziegfeld Follies. The Follies can best be described as a mash-up of today's Saturday Night Live!, Radio City Christmas Spectacular and a Las Vegas extravaganza.

When The New Amsterdam curtain came down on the final edition of The Ziegfeld Follies in 1931, it seemed that the sequins, dance steps and songs would fade into the rafters of the beautiful interior for good. However, one woman apparently wasn't content to leave her Broadway home just yet. In 1952, the night watchman of the theater was tinkering around onstage in the glow of the ghost light. On that particular night, the watchman heard the clicking of heels behind him. He turned to find a beautiful woman wearing a floor-length green beaded gown with a sash emblazoned with the word "OLIVE" across her chest and a blue glass bottle clutched in her hand. After a few brief words and some casual flirting, the woman turned around and disappeared before his eyes. After some research into the sash and costume, it appeared that the woman was none other than Follies dancer Olive Thomas!


Olive Thomas
Olive Thomas still haunts The New Amsterdam Theater
Olive Thomas was in the Follies from 1915 to 1920. She became the "face of the Follies" and was swept up into the world of press and modeling for posters and advertisements. Mr. Ziegfeld took a special interest in Miss Thomas. A few years later, Olive married actor Jack Pickford and entered what many described as a tumultuous relationship. During a trip to Paris in 1920, tragedy struck. Pickford discovered Olive on the floor of their hotel bathroom. It appeared that Olive had ingested poison—found in a blue glass bottle lying next to her. Olive's tragic end would become one of Broadway's first scandals. 

According to various accounts, there has been one sighting of Olive every decade since her first sighting in 1952. It is commonly known that actors are a superstitious lot, so, to keep Olive happy, a photo of her is displayed just inside the New Amsterdam stage door where performers and stagehands enter the building each night. Words of greeting to Olive are expressed by those who believe her spirit still lives on. The last sighting of Olive was during the run of Mary Poppins in 2006—so we are due for another glimpse anytime now. Watch out!
Author Tim Dolan
Photo: Sascha Reinking Photography
Originally from Detroit, Michigan, Tim Dolan moved to The Big Apple in 2003 to pursue a career in the arts. As an actor, Tim was featured on Season Two of HBO's Boardwalk Empire. Off-Broadway Tim performed as Abraham in the long-running hit musical Altar Boyz and was in the recently revival of Once Upon A Mattress starring Jackie Hoffman and John "Lypsinka" Epperson. He has been a proud member of Actor's Equity Association since 2009. As an arts educator, Tim was on faculty at Rosie's Theatre Kids, Rosie O'Donnell's arts organization, as well as Dream Makers Performing Arts.

Having always wanted to pry open the Broadway history books and oral histories, Broadway Up Close Walking Tours Inc. has been a labor of love that has been sharing stories and smiles with thousands of theater-goers since 2010 on the busy sidewalks of the Broadway theater district. 

New Victory Thumb Come meet Leslie Carter at The New Victory Theater when you come to see Chotto Desh, an exhilarating evening of dance for the whole family! 

Posted by Beth Henderson

It seems like every single inch of the world North to South to East to West has been explored, but just a little while ago, that wasn’t the case. In our second show of the season, Mr. Popper’s Penguins, Mr. Popper dreams of being a global explorer of great renown, but instead he’s a house painter. While painting houses, he has elaborate fantasies of exploring the entire world, from the wild forests to the frozen polar icecaps. 

Do some of the names mentioned in Mr. Popper’s sound familiar? The show includes references to real life explorers! We dive in here to find out more about Mr. Popper's heroes! 

Captain James Cook  
Captain James Cook

"Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go."

Who is he in the show?
Captain James Cook is the namesake of the star of our show, the penguin Captain Cook! The penguin is given to the Poppers by Admiral Drake and soon makes a large splash in their quiet life. 

Who was he in reality?
The Captain (1728-1779) was once at the forefront of British cartography and seafaring navigation. Before he felt the pull of the sea, he was born the son of a farmhand. After educating himself during apprenticeships at sea, he climbed through the ranks of the Royal Navy. After extensively charting the coast of Newfoundland in maps still used 200 years later, he voyaged to the Pacific Ocean three separate times. There he became the first European to make contact with Australia's Eastern coastline and the Hawaiian Islands. On top of that, he was the first individual to circumnavigate New Zealand!

Sir Francis Drake
Sir Francis Drake

"There must be a beginning of any great matter, but the continuing unto the end until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory."

Who is he in the show? 
Sir Francis Drake inspired the name of Admiral Drake! He jump starts the action of Mr. Popper's Penguins by delivering the penguin, Captain Cook, to the Poppers!

Who was he in reality?
Knight, pirate, slaver and captain have all been monikers to describe Sir Francis Drake (1540-1596). Though not entirely an honorable man, he greatly contributed to the navigation and even politics of his time. He first started his career at sea as one of England's earliest slavers. Spain had outlawed selling slaves to settlers in Mexico and as a result his vessel and crew were destroyed by the Spanish while at port off the coast. After this, he developed a lifelong hatred of the Spanish and became a pirate, attacking their ships. Queen Elizabeth II legitimized him with a knighthood for becoming the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. He finally found vengeance against the Spanish in 1588, when he served as second-in-command while the British destroyed the Spanish Armada.

Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart

"Women must try to do things as men have tried. When they fail, their failure must be but a challenge to others."

Who is she in the show?
Earhart and the following two explorers, Scott and Shackelton, only have short cameos in Mr. Popper's Penguins. However, it doesn't make their lives any less fascinating! When Captain Cook is sick in the show, Earhart, Scott and Shackleton reach out on the radio, trying to help him. 

Who was she in reality?
You've probably heard of Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) because she disappeared while on her mission to fly around the globe. However, she's so much more than that! She was born in Kansas to a mother who didn't believe in raising "nice little girls." In fact, she grew up wearing pants instead of dresses, to the disapproval of her maternal grandmother. Though she first pursued a degree in medicine, she eventually felt a pull toward the sky and started taking flying lessons at the age of 24. She then became the first woman to fly nonstop across the Atlantic and the first person to fly from Hawaii to California. However, on her second attempt to circumnavigate the globe, she lost radio contact and it is assumed that she was lost at sea.

Captain Robert Falcon Scott
Robert Falcon Scott

"We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last."

Who is he in the show?
Scott briefly appears as he, Earhart and Shackleton try to help Captain Cook by madaying for help on their radios. 

Who was he in reality?
Captain Robert Falcon Scott (1868-1912) was another famed Royal Navy commander! The British Scott led two expeditions to the Antarctic region, the Discovery Expedition and the doomed Terra Nova Expedition. He was the first man to discover the Polar Plateau, on which the South Pole is located, while setting the record (at the time) of traveling South to latitude 82°S. He became a national hero, had a successful career in the Navy and began a lifelong feud with the next explorer on our list, Sir Earnest Shackleton. On the second journey, his party discovered plant fossils, proving that Antarctica was once forrested and connected to other continents. While travelling back from the second expedition, a failed meet-up led Scott and his fellow companions to die from a combination of exhaustion, exposure and starvation. 

Sir Earnest Shackleton
Sir Earnest Shackleton

"Difficulties are just things to overcome, after all."

Who is he in the show?
He tries to help Captain Cook by radioing for assistance, along with Scott and Earhart. 

Who was he in reality?
Along with his rival, Captain Scott, Sir Earnest Shackleton (1874-1922) participated in the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration. In fact, he ended this age with his Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition, the successful crossing of Antarctica. First born in Ireland, he moved to London with his family at the age of 10. His first Antarctic experience was traveling with Captain Scott, during his Discovery Expedition. Though he failed to reach the South Pole on his second expedition, his team reached the furthest point South at the time at 88°S, only 97 miles from the Pole. On this mission, his team also climbed Mount Erebus, Antarctica's most active volcano. He was knighted by King Edward VII once he returned home. Though he was largely forgotten soon after he died, he was 'rediscovered' in the 20th century thanks to the book Endurance and numerous movies! Now, he is renowned for his leadership skills during his dangerous, yet casualty-free Trans-Antarctic Expedition. 

New Victory Thumb Get your Mr. Popper's Penguins tickets to imagine the different ways you can become an explorer! This toe-tapping musical is playing October 14 – 30, so do you best penguin waddle over to the New Vic today. 
Posted by Beth Henderson
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