ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Willy O’Riley and his friends say it kind of started as a joke.
“I think we were watching (Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas) and were like, ‘Hey, what if we performed this live and see if anyone shows up?’” O’Riley recounts. “We didn’t even think anyone even knew who Emmet Otter was.”
They were mistaken.
What began as a loosely stitched small-stage production at Lovin’ Cup in 2013 grew into a finely stitched small-stage production at Lovin’ Cup in Henrietta that delivers sold-out performances with many families making it an annual holiday tradition.
Last year, the success of “The Music of Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas” caught the eye of the maker of the original movie, The Jim Henson Company.
“They reached out and they were like, ‘Hey, we love what you guys are doing, how can we partner with you?’” O’Riley remembers.
Nicole Goldman, executive vice president of branding at The Jim Henson Company, emphasized that excitement a year later.
“What Willy and his group have been able to create is something that really brings the community together and gets people all the feels around Emmet Otter and it is such a sweet, sweet show and people really connect with it,” Goldman said.
The Jim Henson Company’s involvement has come with benefits for the local group, including promotion on the company’s website, but there have also been some unexpected aspects that led to among other things higher ticket prices.
“Anything that you see that has someone’s work in it, that does come with partnerships and business arrangements and things like that and this is just that,” Goldman said.
O’Riley and his group are now operating as a licensee.
“With the licensing there are a few regulations, a licensing fee so obviously that impacts some factors of the show, but ultimately we’re happy to be legitimately working with them to be an officially licensed show and the hope is that once we get past all the business we can find ways to creatively work together and hopefully bring the show to a bigger level,” O’Riley said.
As Ma Otter said, “A person’s gotta take some chances or life will never come to nothing.”