Goodspeed Musicals Presents World Premiere of EMMET OTTER's JUG-BAND CHRISTMAS

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Goodspeed Musicals Presents World Premiere of EMMET OTTER's JUG-BAND CHRISTMASGoodspeed Musicals, the only two time Tony Award winning theatre in the country, is proud to announce the cast of its upcoming world premiere production of Jim Henson’s classic holiday favorite Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, adapted for the stage. Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas will run December 7, 2008, through January 4, 2009, at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut.

As Christmas approaches the world of Frogtown Hollow, Emmet Otter and his Ma can only dream of buying each other gifts. So when a Christmas Eve talent contest is announced, both secretly enter hoping to win the prize money. In a heartwarming twist on “The Gift of the Magi,” Emmet and Ma risk all they have and end up with the greatest grand prize of all. Based on director Jim Henson's television feature, this new theatrical adaptation features a lovable mix of actors and puppet characters from The Jim Henson Company and a toe-tapping score, it’s a classic holiday musical for all ages!

This world premiere musical is based on the book “Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas” by Russell and Lillian Hoban and the ground-breaking all-puppet HBO special of the same name produced and directed by Jim Henson. This production is a unique collaboration among Goodspeed Musicals, co-book writers Timothy A. McDonald of iTheatrics and Christopher Gattelli, Paul Williams who contributed the music and lyrics, and The Jim Henson Company.

Daniel Reichard, who returns to Goodspeed Musicals where he previously played Charlie Dalrymple in Brigadoon, will play Emmet Otter. Mr. Reichard recently received a Drama Desk Award nomination for his role in Broadway’s Jersey Boys. Broadway veteran Cass Morgan, whose credits include Mary Poppins, Beauty and the Beast, Ring of Fire, and Pump Boys and Dinettes, will play Ma Otter. Tony nominated actor Alan Campbell, whose credits include Contact and Sunset Boulevard, will play Pa Otter. Kate Wetherhead, who recently delighted audiences as Chutney in Legally Blond and in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, will play Jane.

The ensemble includes High Button Shoes leading man Stephen Bienskie as Stan Weasel, Harvey (TBA), and puppeteer and puppet captain Tyler Bunch, an established puppeteer whose well-known characters have been seen on television shows like “Sesame Street”, “Bear in the Big Blue House”, and “Between the Lions”. Kevin Covert returns to Goodspeed Musicals where he previously appeared in Red, Hot & Blue and Call Me Madam. Mr. Covert, who was last seen on Broadway in Spamalot, will play Mayor Fox. Leo Daignault, who played several characters in Avenue Q on Broadway, will play Chuck. Madeline Doherty will play Mrs. Mink. Colin Hanlon, who recently appeared in Rent, will play Fred Lizard. Jeff Hiller, who Goodspeed audiences will remember as Available Jones in the 2006 production of L’il Abner, returns to play Charlie. Mrs. Fox will be played by Lisa Howard, whose Broadway credits include 9 to 5, South Pacific, and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. Other ensemble members include puppeteer Anney McKilligan (AKA Anney Fresh) who has been nominated for five Emmy Awards for Costumes Styling / Design with a win in 2007 for “Sesame Street;” Sheri Sanders, who will play Heddy; and Robb Sapp, who was last seen in the Broadway sensation Wicked, as Wendell. James Silson and David Stephens will be puppeteers. Mr. Stephens holds a Masters degree in Puppet Arts from the University of Connecticut. Recently, he was a core puppeteer on PBS’ “SeeMore’s Playhouse” and became a puppeteer during Season 39 of “Sesame Street.” The swings will be Matthew Furtado and Kristin Feeney.

Timothy A.  McDonald (Book) is a respected educator and playwright (Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, The Musical Adventures of Flat Stanley). He is the founding Chairman of the New York based educational musical theatre consulting firm iTheatrics, which partnered with The Jim Henson Company for the initial development of the musical stage version of Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas.

Christopher Gattelli (Book/Director/Choreographer) choreographed Goodspeed Musicals13 at the Norma Terris Theater, which recently opened on Broadway, and Me and My Girl at The Goodspeed Opera House. Gattelli choreographed the Broadway revival of Sunday in the Park with George, and was recently nominated for a 2008 Tony Award for Best Choreography for Rodgers & Hammerstein’s South Pacific.                                

The new stage version of Emmet Otter’s Jug-band Christmas is produced in association with The Jim Henson Company, with Co-CEO Brian Henson spearheading the project on the Company’s behalf.  The Jim Henson Company has been an established leader in family entertainment for over 50 years, known for such productions as “The Muppet Show,”  “Fraggle Rock,”  “Labyrinth,”  and  “The Dark Crystal.”

Paul Williams, who has written the music for numerous Henson projects, including the songs for the award-winning original HBO special as well as “The Muppet Movie” featuring the cherished ballad “Rainbow Connection,” will provide the score. Williams returns to Goodspeed Musicals where he recently created the music for the theatrical sensation Happy Days: A New Musical, now on National Tour.  Oscar, Grammy, and Golden Globe winning songwriter Paul Williams is recognized as one of the America’s most prolific and gifted lyricists and composers.  A ‘Hall of Fame’ songwriter and recipient of the National Music Publishers President’s Award, Williams’ standards have been recorded by such diverse musical icons as Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles, David Bowie, Tony Bennett, Sarah Vaughn, Johnny Mathis, The Carpenters, Luther Vandross, REM, Mel Torme, and Diana Ross.

Set Design will be by Anna Louizos, who previously designed Me & My Girl at the Goodspeed Opera House. Ms. Louizos’ received Tony Award nominations for In The Heights and High Fidelity. Her other Broadwaycredits include Curtains, Steel Magnolias, Avenue Q, Golda’s Balcony, and the upcoming production of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas at the Marquis Theatre. Costume Design will be by Gregg Barnes, whose Broadway credits include Legally Blonde, The Drowsy Chaperone, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, and Side Show. Lighting will be designed by Brian MacDevitt, whose design for 13, now on Broadway, was first developed here at The Norma Terris Theatre. Mr. MacDevitt earned Tony Awards for his designs for The Coast of Utopia, The Pillowman, and Into the Woods.                                                         

Music Supervisor will be Michael O’Flaherty. He is in his 17th season as Goodspeed’s Resident Music Director. Music Director will be Larry Pressgrove whose work was last heard in Broadway’s [title of show]. William J. Thomas is assistant music director. Music Arrangements will be by Gregory M. Brown. Orchestrations will be provided by Dan DeLange, who provided the orchestrations for Goodspeed Musicals’ Big River, Half a Sixpence, High Button Shoes, Singin’ in the Rain, The Boy Friend, Red Hot and Blue, Call Me Madam, and Babes in Arms.

“This show holds a beautiful lesson about how much we gain when we make a sacrifice for those we love,” said Tim McDonald, “It is a wonderful message for fans new and old to experience during the holidays.”

Families across Connecticut are invited to celebrate and create a new holiday tradition complimented by the beauty of the Goodspeed Opera House bedecked for the season.  “The magic of Christmastime in this idyllic holiday setting is the perfect backdrop for such a timeless tale,” Executive Director Michael P. Price commented, “Emmet and Ma’s story of giving is one we are excited to share with audiences. The wonderful music, charming characters, and a cast of eighteen exceptional performers will make for a festive celebration for all ages. Looking to the future we hope Christmas at the Goodspeed Opera House will be an enduring holiday tradition.”

Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas is produced for Goodspeed Musicals by Michael P. Price.

Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas will run December 7, 2008, through January 4, 2009 [Official Press Opening December 17, 2008. A limited number of press seats will be available.] Curtain times are Wednesdays at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.; Thursdays at 7:00 p.m.; Fridays at 7:00 p.m., with matinees at 2:00 p.m. on December 26 and January 2;  Saturdays at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.; and Sundays at 2:00 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.; with special performances on Christmas Eve at 2:00 p.m.,  New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day at 2:00 p.m. Tickets start at $39 for children under 12 and $49 for adults. A limited number of $26 Second Row Side Mezzanine (restricted view) seats are available for each performance. A special VIP package with a limited number of premium seats and a souvenir gift is also available. For more information call the Box Office at 860.873.8668 or visit www.goodspeed.org.

Dedicated to the preservation and advancement of musical theatre, Goodspeed Musicals produces three musicals each season at the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Conn., and additional musicals at The Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, Conn., which was opened in 1984 for the development of new musicals. The only regional theatre to receive two Tony Awards (for outstanding achievement), Goodspeed also maintains The Scherer Library of Musical Theatre and The Max Showalter Center for Education in the Musical Theater.

Goodspeed gratefully acknowledges the support of American Airlines, official airline of Goodspeed Musicals; additional support from Blum Shapiro; Hoffman Lexus; Mohegan Sun; Henkel Adhesives Technologies; Updike, Kelly & Spellacy P.C.; National Endowment for the Arts; and the Connecticut Commission on Culture and Tourism.

Photo by Genevieve Rafter Keddy

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