“James Street” returns May 20-30 2015

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May 20 to 30, 2015. Our hit musical, James Street, is coming back to Artword Artbar, 15 Colbourne Street, just off James! First mounted in 2012, in Artword Theatre’s four-show season at the Lyric, this big, ambitious show was restaged in 2014 to fit into the intimate music venue Artword Artbar. It was a sell-out!
Hamilton`s official Town Crier from 1850 meets a modern Hamiltonian from the North End, right on James Street!

Ryan Sero, Jay Shand, Valeri Kay, Paula Grove, front Charly Chiarelli, Gordon Odegaard

Performed by The Artword Theatre Ensemble:
Charly Chiarelli as modern day Hamiltonian,
Jeremy Shand as Town Crier Paola Brown, plus
Paula Grove, Valeri Kay, Gordon Odegaard and Ryan Sero as everyone else: [Surveyor and Helper, Land Promoters, Pioneer Woman and Man, Dentist, George Hamilton, James Durand, Nathaniel Hughson, Immigrant Woman, Robert Murray Police Chief, Newsboy, Farmer, Editor, Auctioneer, Mr. Cummings, Woman, Wanzer, Mr. Ryan, Workers, Hugh Cossart Baker, Mrs. Baker and family, Billy Carroll, HSR Conductor 1906, Trolley Girl, WWI Recruiters, Marion Simpson, Soldier, Rocco Perri, Bessie Starkman, WWII soldiers from RHLI, Evelyn Dick, citizens in 40s and 50s and 60s…]

Showtimes: Wed May 20 to Sat May 23 at 8 pm, Sun May 24 matinee at 2 pm
Wed May 27 to Sat May 30 at 8 pm.
Tickets: $25 (Fri & Sat), $20 (Wed, Thur, Sun), $10 preview May 20 only.
(Book online  or call 905-543-8512 to reserve.)

An Artword Theatre production, written and directed by Ronald Weihs, with original music by Mark McNeil and choreography by Learie McNicolls.
Produced and designed by Judith Sandiford.
Music performed by Mark McNeil, Ron Weihs & the Ensemble.


Press Release, May 2015:

Artword Theatre’s hit musical James Street is coming back to Hamilton. The popular show, a mad musical dash through the history of Hamilton, will be returning to Artword Artbar, May 20 to 30, 2015.

Artword Artbar has been a key player in the revitalization of Hamilton’s downtown. Located at 15 Colbourne Street, half a block west of James Street, the café-bar has been presenting music, theatre and dance in an intimate setting (60 maximum) for over five years.

Written and directed by Ronald Weihs, James Street has a cast of six (plus two musicians), who play multiple roles as Hamilton’s history flashes by. Songs are by Mark McNeil, one of Hamilton’s finest singer-songwriters and a well-known journalist for the Hamilton Spectator. His latest CD, Flashbacks, featuring songs from the show, is nominated for three Hamilton Music Awards.

Choreography is by Learie Mc Nicolls, well known in the Toronto dance scene, who has recently pulled up stakes and moved to The Hammer. Judith Sandiford is both producer and designer.

James Street begins with a mysterious encounter between a contemporary Hamiltonian (played by Charly Chiarelli) and Hamilton’s town crier from 1840, Paola Brown (played by Jeremy Shand). The two watch in amazement as historical characters (played by Paula Grove, Valeri Kay, Gordon Odegaard and Ryan Sero) come alive.

They see how pioneer dentistry was done, witness George Hamilton and his cronies (Hughson and Durand) plot out the town, watch a farmer advertise for a wife “with a good back”, drop into Billy Carroll’s cigar shop and bookie joint to bet on the first Around the Bay Road Race, and take a ride on the new Electric Railway. They witness the sad demise of Bessie, Queen of the Bootleggers, and the strange fate of Evelyn Dick.

There is a sequence honouring Hamilton’s soldiers through two World Wars. McNeil’s song, “Private Riley”, imagines a universal soldier in the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (RHLI). The Rileys adopted the song to celebrate their 150th anniversary, and Mark collaborated with the regimental band to produce an award-winning video that received national exposure.

Charly Chiarelli is well known for his widely popular one-man shows about growing up in Hamilton as a Sicilian immigrant. He is just returning from Sicily, where he has been starring in a film production, The Lemon Grove, based partly on his stories.

The idea for James Street arose in 2010, when McNeil was working on a special edition of The Spectator, The Story of James.  Mark suggested to Ronald Weihs and Judith Sandiford that Artword produce an original play, partly based on the first-person stories he was collecting. Ron and Judith ran Artword Theatre in Toronto from 1994 to 2006, creating many original works for theatre, until the condo boom displaced them and they transferred their activities to Hamilton.


Press quotes:

“Right now, there’s a delightful little show being performed by Artword Theatre. Happily, it provides a lusty connection with Hamilton’s past. It’s called James Street, and it pays homage to a neighbourhood that’s just evolved and evolved. The show, however, is much more than that. It’s a love song to Hamilton, the good, the bad and everything in-between. An ensemble cast embraces comic and romantic moments, doing robust service to Mark McNeil’s evocative score.”  —Gary Smith, The Hamilton Spectator 


“FIFTEEN YEARS AGO”; a look back at James St. N.   Ontario Arts Review, May 2014.

Fifteen years ago, Mark McNeil was writing a piece for the Hamilton Spectator, about James Street North where things were not going well. “You know things are rough,” he wrote, “When a street can’t even support its beer store any longer.” Happily, things have turned around on our storied avenue. It now supports, if not a beer store, at least a plethora of restaurants, bars, venues, galleries & shops.
Many years after writing his words of concern, McNeil had the pleasure of writing a longer much more optimistic update, and was delighted with the improvements noticed.

From that came the idea for a play about the ups and downs, the adventures and the characters of James Street North. He partnered with Ron Weihs and the play became a reality, performed at the Lyric Theatre. Now, an updated version, with more songs added, is on view at Artword Artbar, and it’s a keeper. I had the pleasure of seeing it at a very polished preview performance.
Have you ever had the experience of finding a coffee-table book about Hamilton at a friend’s house, or at the library, and falling deeply into the pictures of the remarkable buildings of yesteryear; the classic cars lining the streets, and horses populating pictures of what is clearly your own city? It’s that wondrous feeling that resonates throughout this affectionate but not cloying production.
A Hamilton Town Crier (Jeremy Shand) circa 1840, somehow travels through time and meets with a James Street North denizen -Charly Chiarelli in 2014. Their shared stories about James Street are played out in vignettes by the rest of the cast Paula Grove, Valeri Kay, Gordon Odegaard and Ryan Sero in word, song, and occasionally dance. It’s great fun,with the stories  surprisingly informative (did you know that original settlers were given free land – no taxes? That Hamilton declared bankruptcy in 1866!
The six-person ensemble brings to life several key moments of our city’s history. They show us scheming speculators George Hamilton and James Durand planning to create a town, and buying the support of Nathaniel Hughson by naming streets after his kids, Mary, Rebecca, and of course the aforementioned James. We see the surprising bankruptcy auction; visit some of the grand old shops, ride on a trolley, dance through Gore Park, witness race prejudice acknowledged by the chief of police, and tour the street with a proud immigrant from Sicily.
All this and more is supported by very enjoyable and era-appropriate music written by McNeil (“Jimmy Street”) on guitar and ukulele; Weihs on guitar and fiddle; Chiarelli playing harmonica; and the entire cast sings. An especially lovely musical moment was the Gore Park segment in which the several voices sang a barbershop-quartet-inspired piece.
Hamilton’s ‘Eeyore’ phase has at long last passed. We now have a downtown where people want to be. It’s a lovely fact, and as we continue to embrace and take pride in our present we are able to enjoy, acknowledge and accept our past. This play has the ability to tell our story and to entertain us mightily at the same time. I recommend it to anyone who cares about this city.
Artword Artbar is a great place to see it. It’s an intimate venue, where every seat is a good one. The stage is a comfortable height, and the actors at times inhabit the audience part of the floor as well. The proprietors have an obvious love of their city and make an effort to present and celebrate it in their productions. Their respect for their patrons shows in every detail, from the LED-style stage lighting (to reduce excess heat build-up in the room) to the bright, clean washrooms, to the craft-style beer on tap at reasonable prices, plus a very welcoming vibe. —Tony Kilgannon, Ontario Arts Review, May 2014.

“James Street” Apr 27-May 11, 2014, at Artword Artbar

April 27 to May 11, 2014,  Artword Theatre presents “James Street” a mad musical dash through the history of Hamilton. All at Artword Artbar on our new theatrical stage! New songs, new dance, since our December 2012 production.
Hamilton`s official Town Crier from 1850 meets a modern Hamiltonian from the North End, right on James Street!
Performed by The Artword Theatre Ensemble: Charly Chiarelli as modern day Hamiltonian, Jeremy Shand as Town Crier Paola Brown,
plus Paula Grove, Valeri Kay, Gordon Odegaard and Ryan Sero as everyone else [Surveyor and Helper, Land Promoters, Pioneer Woman and Man, Dentist, George Hamilton, James Durand, Nathaniel Hughson, Immigrant Woman, Robert Murray Police Chief, Newsboy, Farmer, Editor, Auctioneer, Mr. Cummings, Woman, Wanzer, Mr. Ryan, Workers, Hugh Cossart Baker, Mrs. Baker and family, Billy Carroll, HSR Conductor 1906, Trolley Girl, WWI Recruiters, Marion Simpson, Soldier, Rocco Perri, Bessie Starkman, WWII soldiers from RHLI, Evelyn Dick, citizens in 40s and 50s and 60s…]

Previews Sunday April 27, 3 pm & Tuesday April 29, 8 pm; opens April 30, runs to May 11, 2014, Tues-Sat 8 pm, Sun mats 3 pm. Tickets: previews $10, regular $25, advance $20 (online or call 905-543-8512)
An Artword Theatre production, written and directed by Ronald Weihs, with original music by Mark McNeil and choreography by Learie McNicolls. Produced and designed by Judith Sandiford. Music performed by Mark McNeil, Ronald Weihs and the Ensemble.


Review May 02, 2014 by Gary Smith for the Hamilton Spectator

Charly Chiarelli, Ryan Sero, Valeri Kay, Jeremy Shand, Paula Grove, front: Mark McNeil, Gordon Odegaard

Musical soul to a treasured time

If you missed Greenwich Village in the early ’60s, when The Café Bizarre and The Village Gate were the in-places to go, don’t worry. You can find it all again, just off Hamilton’s James Street. The cigarette haze is gone. No one’s doing drugs at the corner table. The chairs aren’t battered and broken. Otherwise things look very much the same.

Walk into the Colbourne Street Artbar and you enter a world that evokes the past. Right now, there’s a delightful little show being performed by Artword Theatre. Happily, it provides a lusty connection with Hamilton’s past. It’s called James Street, and it pays homage to a neighbourhood that’s just evolved and evolved.

The show, however, is much more than that. It’s a love song to Hamilton, the good, the bad and everything in-between.

An ensemble cast embraces comic and romantic moments, doing robust service to Mark McNeil’s evocative score.

McNeil’s music finds exquisite memories of Gore Park on a warm Sunday evening, the old Eaton’s store with its carefully coiffed elevator operators, sporting oh-so white gloves. There’s the old outdoor market with the cries of live chickens. And the holler of street corner newsboys hawking The Hamilton Spectator, crying the day’s headlines.

James Street is a roller-coaster ride to the past. Anyone over a certain age will smile at the memory of the old popcorn seller on the corner with his gaily painted cart. They’ll smile at the remembrance of the Green Room in Eaton’s, where cherry pie was featured on the menu. There are the trolleys and the street cars that took passengers up and down our main streets, more romantic I think than any LRT.

Ron Weih’s delightful patchwork of a script offers a conduit to the past. There are wild recollections of our infamous crime “stars,” Evelyn Dick and Rocco Perri. And there are moments of political power with the formation of the union movement and recollections of the Underground Railway.

McNeil’s music, played by the composer himself on guitar and ukulele, helped by Weihs on fiddle and guitar and Charly Chiarelli on harmonica, is the show’s heart and soul.

With McNeil and the cast furnishing energetic vocals, this James Street score ought to be captured on disc so we can enjoy it again at home.

Some of the little snippets that make up Weihs’ script are better than others. No surprise there. It’s no secret James Street works best when it isn’t trying to teach us a history lesson.

No matter, you’ll love the banter between 1840 Town Crier Jeremy Shand and Chiarelli’s 2014 street dude. You’ll have fun watching Paula Grove rock her socks off with Gordon Odegaard in Rocco and Bessie. You’ll be charmed by everything Ryan Sero does, changing characters with the donning, or the doffing, of a hat.

You’ll love the way Valeri Kay’s eyes light up every time she takes a dance step. And when McNeil sings Private Riley, a haunting folk ballad about the waste of war, you’d better have a hanky.

Learie McNicholls’ choreography is a little on the hop, stamp and kick side. And not all cast members look comfortable doing it.

What matters most though, is this James Street is a funny, fuzzy valentine to Hamilton. Go see it and reclaim some touching and funny moments.

Gary Smith has written about theatre and dance for The Hamilton Spectator for more than 30 years.

James Street
An Artword Theatre Production at Artword Artbar, 15 Colbourne St.
to May 11, Tuesday through Saturday at 8 p.m. Sunday matinee at 3 p.m.
May 3, Margaret Houghton pre-show presentation at 8 p.m., show at 9:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25, advance purchase $20

NEW! James Street, a musical dash through Hamilton history, Nov 29-Dec 8, 2012

james_street_smallNovember 29 to December 8, 2012. James Street: A mad musical dash through the history of Hamilton: Artword Theatre’s second production in its 2012-13 season at The Lyric is James Street, a light-hearted look at downtown Hamilton, from the founding of the town to the present day. Featuring a cast of six plus two onstage musicians, James Street is a patchwork quilt of colourful characters and amusing incidents.
Written and directed by Ronald Weihs
Songs written and performed by Mark McNeil
Cast: Charly Chiarelli, Valeri Kay, Gordon Odegaard, Ryan Sero, Jeremy Shand, Abigail Veenstra
Produced and designed by Judith Sandiford
Associate Director: Ryan Sero

The play, a new original play written and directed by Ronald Weihs, uses an inventive ensemble approach in which actors play multiple roles, and scenes change in a flash. Songs are by Mark McNeil, one of Hamilton’s finest singer-songwriters and a well-known journalist for the Hamilton Spectator. Charly Chiarelli plays a modern Hamiltonian who magically encounters a famous figure from the 1840s – Paola Brown, a leader in Hamilton’s black community and Hamilton’s official town crier (played by Jeremy Shand). After some initial sparring about who is in whose dream, the two find themselves witnesses to (and sometimes participants in) a fast-forward gallop through life on James Street.
They see how pioneer dentistry was done, witness George Hamilton and his cronies (Hughson and Durand) plot out the town, watch a farmer advertise for a wife “with a good back”, drop into Billy Carroll’s cigar shop and bookie joint to bet on the first Around the Bay Race, take a ride on the new Electric Railway – all depicted by Valeri Kay, Gordon Odegaard, Ryan Sero, and Abigail Veenstra. Mark McNeil appears onstage with guitar as a street singer, with his buddy Ron Weihs on fiddle.

Thursday to Saturday at 8 pm, Nov 29, 30, Dec 1, 6, 7, 8, 2012
Venue: The Lyric Theatre, 434 King W, near Locke Street, (905) 527-6135.
Thurs: $19 regular, $16 seniors/students; Fri & Sat: $25 regular, $16 students/seniors


Two World Wars

There is a sequence honouring Hamilton’s soldiers through two World Wars. Mark’s song, “Private Riley”, imagines a universal soldier in the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry (RHLI), who fights in every engagement, from the Fenian raids to present-day Kandahar. The Rileys have adopted the song to celebrate their 150th anniversary, and are releasing a video, with the Regimental band playing along with Mark.

As the play approaches present day, the cast members recount some of the memories collected for the Spectator: the old Eaton’s at Christmas, the arrival of the trains at the CNR station, the creaky escalators in Zellers, Willie the elevator operator, the popcorn seller, the open-air market, climbing the James Street steps up the mountain, and a long father-son walk up the length of James Street.

Where the Idea Came From

The idea for James Street arose in 2010, when Mark was working on a special edition of The Spectator featuring a section about James Street. Mark had seen other plays by Artword Theatre (Rascals and Numskulls, Tobacco Troubadour) that used real events to create entertaining theatre. He suggested that Artword produce an original play, partly based on the first-person stories he was collecting and partly on other historical sources, to open when the special edition was published. Ron loved the idea, but not the time-frame, and so James Street, the play, became a project on its own.

The newspaper section featured a lengthy interview with the Hamilton’s best-known storyteller, Charly Chiarelli, whose one-man shows about growing up in the Sicilian North End, Cu’Fu and Mangiacake have been performed across Canada and in Europe and shown as films on Bravo Television. Wouldn’t it be great, Mark said to Ron, if Charly could be in the show? Ron had directed both Cu’Fu and Mangiacake, as well as the latest addition, Sunamabeach, so this arranged. Charly is happy to be in a show where he doesn’t have to do all the talking.

Artword Theatre

The Artword team, Ronald Weihs and Judith Sandiford, ran Artword Theatre, a facility in downtown Toronto, producing many plays of their own, for twelve years before coming to Hamilton in 2008. They produced four original plays at the Pearl Company in 2008-09: You Are What You Do, Rascals and Numskulls, Sunamabeach (by Charly Chiarelli) and Tobacco Troubadour . In 2009, Ron and Judith bought a little sports bar on Colbourne Street, just off James North, and turned it into the popular Artword Artbar, featuring music of all varieties, theatre, poetry and spoken word four nights a week, Wednesday to Saturday.

When Patrick Brennan announced plans for converting the Westside Concert Theatre into the new Lyric Theatre, he got in touch with Ron and Judith right away, offering to co-produce four shows with them. It was a delightful offer that Artword could not refuse. Artword Theatre is presenting four productions in the 2012-13 season: 1812-The Songbook (October 18 – 20), James Street (November 29, 30, December 1, 6, 7, 8), If Cows Could Fly (January 30 to February 3) and Tobacco Troubadour (May 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11).

For more information, contact Judith Sandiford, artword@artword.net,

905-543-8512, cell: 905-912-9083
Artword Theatre
Artistic Director: Ronald Weihs
Managing Director: Judith Sandiford

Artword Theatre also runs Artword Artbar, 15 Colbourne Street Hamilton, www.artword.net/artbar.

 

Artword Theatre Announces 2012-13 Season at the new Lyric Tbeatre

Artword Theatre Announces 2012-13 Season at the new Lyric Tbeatre

Artword Theatre is back in action in Hamilton, presenting a series of four productions at the new Lyric Theatre on King Street at Locke.

The Artword team, Ronald Weihs and Judith Sandiford, ran a successful theatre facility in Toronto for twelve years before coming to Hamilton in 2008. Artword Theatre produced four original plays at the Pearl Company in 2008-09. Then Ron and Judith bought a little sports bar on Colbourne Street, just off James North, and turned it into the popular Artword Artbar, featuring music of all varieties, theatre, poetry and spoken word four nights a week, Wednesday to Saturday. When Patrick Brennan announced plans for converting the Westside Concert Theatre into the new Lyric Theatre, he got in touch with Ron and Judith right away, offering to co-produce four shows with them. It was a delightful offer that Artword could not refuse.


#1: Artword’s season kicks off October 18 to 20, 2012 with 1812 – The Songbook, a rollicking sing-along in music hall style. Hamilton’s popular folk ensemble What the Folk (Terry Ball, Geoff Ball, Carolyn Reid, Caroline Olsen and drummer Eric Hanenberg) sing songs about the War of 1812, and the audience is invited to join in. Illustrated songbooks with the lyrics, and interesting anecdotes about the war, are passed out before every show. Judith Sandiford’s dedicated research unearthed a treasure-trove of rousing songs from the period, assembled and scripted by Sandiford and Ronald Weihs.  Music arrangements are by What the Folk. The show is in cabaret format, with beverages available to loosen up the throat.

Thursday to Saturday at 8 pm, October 18 to 20, 2012
Thurs: $19 regular, $16 seniors and students
Fri & Sat: $25 regular, $16 students and seniors
Venue: The Lyric Theatre, 434 King W, near Locke Street, (905) 527-6135.


#2 From November 29 – December 8, Artword presents James Street, a light-hearted look at the history of Hamilton. Written and directed by Ronald Weihs, with music by Mark McNeil, James Street features Charly Chiarelli – whose stories about growing up Sicilian in Hamilton introduced the North End to the world. Charly plays a modern Hamiltonian who mysteriously encounters a legendary figure from Hamilton’s early days – Paoli Brown, town crier and one of the leaders of Hamilton’s African-Canadian community.  Together they witness a headlong and hilarious dash through Hamilton’s history as sketched out by an ensemble of actors. Mark McNeil, a well-known journalist around town, is also a talented songwriter and master of multiple guitar styles. He plays an ever-present street musician, who is joined by other members of the company for different musical numbers. The design, by Judith Sandiford, features a street stretching the length of the theatre, and a tumultuous streetcar ride.

Thursday to Saturday, 8 pm, Nov 29, 30, Dec 1, 6, 7, 8, 2012
Venue: The Lyric Theatre, 434 King W, near Locke Street, (905) 527-6135.
Thurs: $19 regular, $16 seniors and students
Fri & Sat: $25 regular, $16 students and seniors
Preview: Wednesday, Nov 28 at 8 pm, all tickets $10


#3. January 30 to February 3, 2013. If Cows Could Fly, Allan Merovitz’s musical play about growing up Jewish in Smith’s Falls,  is a perennial Artword favorite. Allan is known internationally as an interpreter of Klezmer and Yiddish songs, and If Cows Could Fly is full of that infectious music. Directed and developed by Ronald Weihs, Cows has seen several Toronto productions, at Artword Theatre and the Ashkenaz Festival at Harbourfront. The production features an live Klezmer Ensemble directed by Frank Rackow. An Artword production in 2008, originating in Hamilton, had a highly successful run in Ottawa, in the inaugural season of the Irving Greenberg Theatre Centre. Patrick Langston of the Ottawa Citizen said “don’t miss this show”, and Alvina Ruprecht of the CBC said “I laughed, I cried, I had a wonderful time”.

Wednesday to Saturday at 8 pm, Jan 30 – Feb 2, 2013, Sunday matinee Feb 3 at 2 pm, 2013.
Venue: The Lyric Theatre, 434 King W, near Locke Street, (905) 527-6135.
Wed, Thurs & Sun: $19 regular, $16 seniors and students
Fri & Sat: $25 regular, $16 students and seniors


#4. Artword’s spring offering is a revival of Tobacco Troubadour, May 2 – 11, a coming-of-age musical based on the songs of J.P. (Paul) Riemens, written and directed by Ronald Weihs. Paul grew up as a “bunkhouse brat” in the tobacco fields of Ontario. Shortly after Ron and Judith arrived in Hamilton, they heard J.P. Riemens and the Barflies play in concert. Struck by the rich storytelling quality of the songs, Ron approached Paul that very night, and Tobacco Troubadour was born. The play begins with J.P. and the Barflies playing a concert, when suddenly actors emerge and a tender love story starts to unfold, weaving in and out with the songs that inspired the play.  The original production in April 2009 was called “truly great” by View Magazine, with “memorable songs, compelling performances and characters that we care about”.  The production was taken to Delhi, in the heart of the Tobacco region, in July, 2009, to packed houses.

Thursday to Saturday at 8 pm, May 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11, 2013
Venue: The Lyric Theatre, 434 King W, near Locke Street, (905) 527-6135.
Thurs: $19 regular, $16 seniors and students
Fri & Sat: $25 regular, $16 students and seniors


Seasons tickets are available at $68 for all four plays, or $49 for any three plays. Call Artword Theatre at 905-543-8512 for details.

For more information, contact Judith Sandiford, artword@artword.net,
905-543-8512, cell: 905-912-9083

Artword Theatre
Artistic Director: Ronald Weihs
Managing Director: Judith Sandiford

artword@artword.net, www.artword.net, 905-543-8512, cell: 905-912-9083
Artword Theatre also runs Artword Artbar, 15 Colbourne Street Hamilton, www.artword.net/artbar.