Interview with Mike Ellis

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Interview with Mike Ellis
Balanchine, George (Choreographer)
Ellis, Michael (Interviewee)
Hardy, Camille (Interviewer)
George Balanchine Foundation (Presenter)

Popular Balanchine

Dates / Origin
Date Created: 2002-08-16
Table of Contents
Disc 1 (40 min.). Mike Ellis discusses being a producer for the Broadway show Courtin' time; how he became involved with the production; how lucky he felt to get George Balanchine as the choreographer; Ralph Bellamy being the first choice for the lead farmer in the production, and subsequently hiring Lloyd Nolan; Nolan getting great reviews and having good chemistry with Billie Worth; Ellis asking Alfred Drake to direct this production while in the men's room at Sardi's; Billy Worth having lunch at Sardi's and being told by Dick Rodgers that she would not be the replacement for the lead in South Pacific which is when Alfred Drake ask her to be the lead in Courtin' Time; the need to pretty up the chorus by changing the costumes; story of Balanchine playing percussion when the new number was shown to Ellis; talking about Johnny Ride the sky; Nolan losing his voice in Philadelphia with Drake then doing show in Philadelphia and Joe E. Brown being hired for the role; getting a short list of available male lead replacements; the plot and costumes for the hoedown at the end of Act I; description of the Garden party scene with a deer being painted on the backdrop by designer Ralph Alswang, who was also the architect that designed the Palace and Uris Theaters; Oklahoma being a rival for this production even though it had been playing for eight years already; Ellis didn't realize that Balanchine was very busy with opening of New York City Ballet concert also; changes being made to the show in Boston; how orchestra changes were made by hand back then; Balanchine working with Dorothea Freitag to create dance numbers; Courtin' time being important as Balanchines first experience choreographing homespun Americana dances; the union allowing a delay in the opening date with an extra tryout in Pittsburgh due to Lloyd Nolan leaving show; changing theaters due to a more ideal location in the heart of the theater district.
Disc 2 (41 min.). Continuing the discussion about the venue change with the new theater being about the same size but hoping to draw in more people due to location; Ellis thinking the show didn't make it because of its wholesomeness and losing its momentum due to Nolan leaving; discussion of the Johnny Ride the sky number; Ellis suggesting changes to the book; his big disaster with Betty Davis production of Two's company; discussion of the Sensible thing to do number with Balanchine making the choreography comfortable for Billy Worth; description of the Maine remember the Maine number and the Hat in hand number with Ellis reciting some of the lyrics; his overall assessment of Balanchine; Balanchine not having an assistant; Balanchine going to out of town tryouts which he didn't do with other shows; an out of town story from the show The play's the thing; Camille Hardy not finding any Pittsburgh reviews; how Alexander H. Cohen became an associate producer; Ellis being the second person to receive the Margo Jones Award in 1963 for his work at the Bucks County Playhouse; his work and selecting plays at the Bucks County Playhouse; how producers retained the rights to shows back then by it needing to run for at least 21 performances or else the rights revert back to the author; how it would be difficult to revive this production; and his thanks to Hardy and the George Balanchine Foundation.
Library locations
Jerome Robbins Dance Division
Shelf locator: *MGZIDVD 5-7312
Balanchine, George
Ellis, Michael
Alswang, Ralph
Nolan, Lloyd
Drake, Alfred, 1914-1992
Brown, Joe E. (Joe Evan), 1892-1973
Bucks County Playhouse (Organization)
Musicals. Courtin' time
Filmed interviews
Statement of responsibility: interviewed by Camille Hardy ; [presented by] The George Balanchine Foundation.
This interview relates to the Popular Balancine dossiers (Box 35. Courtin' Time) (1951) [Dance Division call number: *MGZMD 146, boxes 35-36, Courtin' time], compiled by Camille Hardy. Binder 1. Inventory, overview materials by Camille Hardy and Jack Lawrence, background materials (prints and photocopies of scene designs by Ralph Alswang, photocopies and typescripts from published and unpublished sources), programs (originals and photocopies), notices and reviews, photocopied images from the press, photographs (rehearsal and performance prints, negatives from photo montage in Tab, September 1938). Binder 2. Transcripts of interviews with Hubert Bland, Saul Bolasni, Peter Deign, Harvey Brown Drake (Mrs. Alfred Drake), Michael Ellis, Audrey Keane, Jack Lawrence, Patricia Poole, Herman Raucher, Theodor Uppman, and Billie Worth. Also includes original souvenir program, oversize print of Carmen Mathews in "Golden Moment," photocopy of stage manager's script, music (photocopies and/or originals of partial conductor's score and piano music), and original music folder entitled "Theresa" with manuscript scores for "Golden Moment" and "Masculinity."
Performers: Interviewee, Mike Ellis; interviewer, Camille Hardy.
Venue: Videotaped during an interview at the Balanchine Foundation, New York, N.Y., on Aug. 16, 2002.
Original version: Original format: 2 DV-CAM cassettes.
Acquisition: Gift; George Balanchine Foundation. NN-PD
Physical Description
Extent: 2 videocassette (DVCam) (81 min.) : sound, color ; 1/4 in.
Type of Resource
Moving image
NYPL catalog ID (B-number): b19683031
Universal Unique Identifier (UUID): d4664010-f79a-0130-6999-3c075448cc4b
Rights Statement
The copyright and related rights status of this item has been reviewed by The New York Public Library, but we were unable to make a conclusive determination as to the copyright status of the item. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use.

Item timeline of events

  • 2002: Created
  • 2018: Digitized
  • 2019: Found by you!
  • 2020

MLA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Mike Ellis" The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 2002.

Chicago/Turabian Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. "Interview with Mike Ellis" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed October 13, 2019.

APA Format

Jerome Robbins Dance Division, The New York Public Library. (2002). Interview with Mike Ellis Retrieved from

Wikipedia Citation

<ref name=NYPL>{{cite web | url= | title= (moving image) Interview with Mike Ellis, (2002) }} |author=Digital Collections, The New York Public Library |accessdate=October 13, 2019 |publisher=The New York Public Library, Astor, Lennox, and Tilden Foundation}}</ref>

Interview with Mike Ellis