`Emmett Otter’ on stage

May 30

Now here’s a no-brainer: there’s finally going to be a stage musical version of the classic 1977 Muppet made-for-TV musical “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas.”

Variety’s Gordon Cox reports that the Jim Henson Co. and iTheatrics are teaming up to create a stage version that will utilize actors and puppets. Paul Williams (Oscar winner for co-writing “Evergreen”) wrote the fantastic score and is on board to contribute more material, and Christopher Gatelli, a current Tony nominee for choreographing the Broadway revival of South Pacific, is slated to direct and co-write the book with Tim McDonald, head of iTheatrics, which is based on a Lillian and Russell Hoban children’s book of the same name.

I remember seeing the original “Emmet Otter” on HBO when it first aired, and it became an instant favorite. My little brother and I knew every line of dialogue and every song. A few years ago, I gave my brother and his wife a copy on DVD (which differs slightly than the old videotape we had), and we watch it every Christmas. The great thing about the show is that it’s set at Christmas but isn’t all that Christmas-y. There are no Christmas songs (don’t change that, Paul Williams!), and the story deals with a very poor widow, who washes clothes and knits socks for a living, and her son, who makes money doing odd jobs around town. During the Christmas season (after Ma and Emmet get their traditional Christmas branch), the town hosts a talent show, with a cash prize of $200 (think rustic “American Idol”). In a sort of O. Henry twist, Emmet has to put a hole in Ma’s washtub so he can play washtub bass in his friends’ jug band, and Ma hocks Emmet’s tool chest so she can buy fabric to make a new dress to perform in during the show.

It’s all very sweet without being stupid, and Kermit the Frog, wearing a scarf and a flannel shirt, narrates. What’s not to love?

Read the Vareity story here: www.variety.com

Here’s a lovely fan-created trailer that makes reference to all the cuts that were made in broadcasts after the original 1977 airing on HBO:

One comment

  1. Peter Hall /

    Those “Otter” photos are killin’ me! Definitely a big lol! Glad their bringing those songs back.

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