Scroogissimo! returns Nov 25-Dec 7, 2014

Scroogissimo! Artword’s festive comedy returns November 25 Artword_Scroogissimo_posterD_680to December 7, 2014. Hamilton’s North End meets Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
An Artword Theatre Production, script by Ryan Sero and Charly Chiarelli, direction & dramaturgy by Ronald Weihs

with the Artword Theatre Ensemble: Charly Chiarelli, Pamela Gardner, Paula Grove, Valeri Kay, Gordon Odegaard, Jeremy Shand, with live music performed by Tim Ninehouse.

“Scroogissimo!” runs Nov 25 -Dec 7, 2014
Tues-Sat at 8 pm, matinées Sundays at 3 pm
Reg $25, Adv $20, child $12
Tuesday November 25 (preview), all tickets $10 at the door

Artword Artbar, 15 Colbourne St, is an intimate cafe-bar, with limited seating. To reserve tickets, call 905-543-8512.

(Cast photo by Adam Carter.)

“Artword Theatre is cramming a whack of seasonal fun into their tiny package of a space. Mixing local Sicilian–Canadian storyteller Charly Chiarelli and “Charly” Dickens makes a Christmas–cracker exploding with musical and comedic goodies that will make an addition to your festive season you will never forget….” Robin Pittis, View Magazine (December 12-18, 2013):

“Great fun.” … Review by Tony Kilgannon in Ontario Arts Review, December 8, 2013:
“Charly Chiarelli and Ryan Sero have teamed up to devise Scroogissimo a send-up of the story in a uniquely Hamilton way, at Artword Artbar. …Chiarelli is a Sicilian, from Racalmuto. He is not alone. Hamilton is full of Racalmutese , their numbers and contributions seeming overwhelming considering the small town from which they originate.  Artword Artbar itself sits almost literally in the shadow of the great  three-legged Trinacria symbol on the side of a neighbouring building.
Chiarelli is well-known for mining the comic possibilities in the culture and the accent of Sicilians, and Hamiltonians. With Sero, he has overlaid that pattern onto the great Dickens tale. You can imagine the results; we get words like “umbaggo” (humbug), and lines like “is there-a no prison-a onna Barton-a Street?”.  Because the story and even the lines of the original are so familiar, the send-up works. Even the tender parts of Scrooge’s journey are Sicilianized. When “Scroogi” is transported by the Ghost of Christmas Past, to the triangular island and the town of  Racalmuto of his youth, it is a very sentimental moment. I saw at least one hankie furtively raised to dab the corner of an audience member’s eye.
I’m very fond of the space in Artword Artbar. It seems so low-tech and home-made that productions have a remarkable intimacy. Everything is carried by the performers, with lighting and sets that are minimal and non-distracting.  The cast of Scroogissimo held my interest with strong comic acting and as a powerful musical ensemble. Accompanied by only a keyboard, they performed several Christmas musical numbers including a couple of classic Italian songs. Great fun at a very nice bar with craft beer and wine at reasonable prices.  (Tony Kilgannon, Ontario Arts Review, Dec. 8 2013)

And the full review by Robin Pittis in View Magazine:

Artword Theatre’s Scroogissimo!!.htm

by Robin Pittis
December 12 – 18, 2013

The Artword Theatre is cramming a whack of seasonal fun into their tiny package of a space. Mixing local Sicilian–Canadian storyteller Charly Chiarelli and “Charly” Dickens makes a Christmas–cracker exploding with musical and comedic goodies that will make an addition to your festive season you will never forget.

One doesn’t want to overuse the word unmissable, but if this cast keep on like they’re going, this will be the event of the season.

Ebenzu Scrugi is a skinflint with roots in Sicilia and a tightfisted grasp on the Canadian dollars he has earned while struggling from dirt poverty to the upper echelons of Hamilton society. With some help from his couginis, of course… That is, until he is accosted by (you guessed it) the ghost of his dead business partner Jacobo Marley, and three ‘spiritu’s of Natali Past, present and future.

Ron Weihs and Judith Sandiford (the Mr. and Mrs Fezziwig of James North), dispense artistic delights all year round, but they’ve really laid on a feast of seasonal fireworks to warm us through to the other side of March. The ingenuity displayed in mounting a full musical in a space the size of a one per–centers walk–in closet is a wonder to behold.

You really can’t go wrong with the irrepressible Chiarelli as Scrooge. The man is a raconteur born and bred, and anchors this piece with essential charm and humour.

It’s essential because, let’s face it, the Christmas Carol is kind of like a well–loved stuffed toy — so many generations of writers have adapted, re–written, changed locals, and otherwise mucked with Charles Dickens’ beautiful and moving prose novel, that yet another rendition threatens to burst the seams and let the stuffing out.

Thankfully this is too seasoned an artistic team, with too deep a well of talent to go far wrong. While the cast certainly slept soundly after last Saturday’s comedic and musical marathon, the audience got every penny of the ticket price.

Weihs, Sandiford, and Chiarelli are an artist team that have worked together successfully for more years than they will likely admit to, and their sensibilities interweave beautifully, as always, here, and they’ve blended seamlessly into the Hamilton scene.

A new addition to the Artword team this time out is playwright Ryan Sero, who delights in absurdity and corn-ball word play with the banter and rhythm of Vaudeville. There are quite a few groaners in the mix here, but lots of very very funny character work, and a great many subverted expectations, which is a huge blessing. You wouldn’t think this story could be retold again, and kept fresh, but this team does a fine job, and you won’t regret investing your time.

Gordon Odegaard’s simultaneous playing of Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim almost steals the show – and stealing a show from Charly Chiarelli is a little like knocking over a Swiss bank. You wouldn’t think anyone could steal what has already been stolen, but this straight–man and ventriloquist dummy shtick puts this show over the top, into don’t miss it success.

Pamela Gardener’s ditzy deconstructionist Christmas Past spirit is beautifully boho and, like, totally James North?! Paula Grove’s flirtatious Italian Christmas Present is utterly bang on archetypal man–eater (think Mercedes Ruhl in the Fisher King), while Valerie Kay has gorgeous fun with her deadpan–twinkle Christmas Future.

Newer Artwordians Jeremy Shand, as Jacobo and many essential Character Parts, is a key workhorse without whom this show simply could not go on, and likewise keyboardist Jennifer Lockman carries immense weight in this massively ambitious show for a tiny company.

Don’t think this is just hilarity and diversion. It is, absolutely, diverting, but so importantly for this show, the spirit of the Christmas Carol isn’t drowned by the frivolity or meaningless festivity. Scrugi’s Sicilian past is beautiful but hard, and the Children of Christmas Present are given their due.

Everyone onstage is having a lot of fun here, and you will too. At twenty five bucks a ticket, you’re getting a steal. In fact, you may feel guilty you paid so little. The Artword is to theatre, what Joss Whedon’s Firefly was to Science Fiction; Beautiful, brave and independent… and always flying on the edge.

Remember to bring your carolling voice, because the more you put in to this show the more you get out of it. Like any community, really. And that’s really what the season is about, isn’t it?


Stuart Laughton’s “Trumpet Romance”, Fringe, July 17-27, 2014

July 17 to 27, 2014. Artword Theatre presents Stuart Laughton’s “Trumpet Romance: a wild journey in search of music at the 2014 Hamilton Fringe Festival, at Artword Artbar, 15 Colbourne Street.

Trumpet Romance is written and performed by Stuart Laughton with an array of musical instruments including trumpet, guitar, harmonica, piano. Directed by Ronald Weihs, who also did the script development.

Stuart Laughton picked up a trumpet when he was nine, and it was love at first breath. He began a stellar classical career: Canadian Brass at age 19 and La Scala orchestra at 23. But the siren call of B.B. King’s guitar took him on a wild musical journey, playing roots music in Porkbelly Futures, until it all came together by a lake in Haliburton in R. Murray Schafer’s And Wolf Shall Inherit the Moon.

For more about Stuart Laughton:

Produced by Artword Theatre.
Venue is Artword Artbar, 15 ColbourneStreet, a Fringe Bring-Your-Own-Venue.

TICKETS: $10  60 minutes, all-ages. SHOW TIMES: Thu July 17 8:00 pm, Sat July 19 7:00 pm, Sun July 20 4:00 pm, Tues July 22 8:00 pm, Wed July 23 7:00 pm, Fri July 25 7:00 pm, Sat July 26 9:00 pm, Sun July 27 6:00 pm (final show)

PRESS RELEASE: Artword Theatre presents Trumpet Romance: a wild journey in search of music, the story of a life in music told by Stuart Laughton, an internationally renowned classical trumpet player. At the age of nine, Stuart blew his first note on the trumpet, and fell in love. He was playing concerts while still in elementary school. But when a high-school friend played him Paul Butterfield and B.B. King, young Stuart’s musical imagination expanded to embrace the all kinds and varieties of music. Principal trumpet in the Hamilton Philharmonic at 17, and at La Scala Opera at 23, Stuart’s musical explorations led him to found the Canadian roots music band Porkbelly Futures and to devote ten summers to the epic musical Patria Cycle staged in the Haliburton Forest and Wildlife Reserve by Canada’s visionary composer, R. Murray Shafer. Stuart has also performed world-wide as a member of Canadian Brass.

Ronald Weihs explains: “Stuart came to our attention back in March with his project Radio Dial. Stuart and I began meeting weekly, while he talked and I listened. Stuart’s story is full of surprises, about a life full of twists and turns, as music leads him on a complex and unexpected path.”

Artword Theatre has established a reputation in Hamilton for innovative original theatre with strong local stories, often with a musical basis. Ronald Weihs and Judith Sandiford built and operated Artword Theatre in downtown Toronto from the late-90s to 2006, creating numerous theatre productions and providing a venue for theatre, dance and music productions by other companies. They set up in Hamilton in 2008, where they continue to create and produce original theatre (Rascals and Numskulls, Tobacco Troubadour, Sunamabeach, Scroogissimo, James Street) and documentary theatre projects Langston Hughes vs Joe McCarthy, 1812: The Songbook. They own and operate Artword Artbar, a venue for live music and theatre.

REVIEW of  Trumpet Romance: a wild journey in search of music
by Gary Smith

Stuart Laughton is an artist too. He played in the orchestra when Baryshnikov defected at O’Keefe Centre. He played for prima ballerina Carla Fracci at La Scala in Milan. Our great diva Maureen Forester burst out of her dressing room to applaud a Laughton performance.

The man has stories to tell, and he tells them in his hour-long Trumpet Romance: a wild journey in search of music. He talks about Porkbelly Futures, the thinking man’s bar band. He sings Bon Vivant and strums his guitar. He tells of glory days performing with The Canadian Brass.

The stories are told with affection and candour. Punctuated by some glorious trumpet sounds, it’s enhanced with images of vintage Toronto’s Yonge Street, when Steeles and the Zanzibar were more than strip joints.

There are photos of Laughton’s wife, ballerina Wendy Reiser, the Canadian wild and Milan’s great opera house. Ron Weihs’ direction never gets in the way of Laughton’s honesty.

Trumpet Romance: A Wild Journey in Search of Music

Review by Channah Cohen in View Magazine

In Trumpet Romance, currently playing at Artword Theatre, Stuart Laughton, trumpet player and musician extraordinaire, takes his audience on what he affectionately calls “a wild journey in search of music.” Using narration, musical instruments (trumpets, guitar, harmonica), and a series of projected images, Laughton does, in fact, take us on a journey that is not only entertaining and filled with gentle self-irony and humour. It is also profoundly moving and ultimately challenges us to look beyond the obvious in music and to experience its very essence. The journey itself is well crafted (by Laughton and Weihs), starting with what becomes ultimately a question: “Bon Vivant.” What, indeed, is a “bon vivant”?

In Laughton’s case, he falls in love with the trumpet as a child, exploring the possibilities of the sound he — and the instrument — can make. Playing music becomes his life, leading to a distinguished career on the concert stage, but the world of concert halls, where the beauty of music can triumph (we witness a gorgeous moment in La Scala), that beauty can also become undermined by human pride, self-interest. Besides, music is not simply an ornament for the life of the “bon vivant,” not a cultural indulgence. Instead, as Louis Armstrong said about jazz: “You can even live by it.” Classical, blues, jazz, rock, experimental—music is not simply to be consumed but to enter into.

And so we accompany Laughton to Murray Schafer’s Patria Project in the Haliburton wilds and we listen and watch as music finds its echo among the trees, in the air, in the life force that transcends everything. For that is what “Bon Vivant” means.

Trumpet Romance is an extraordinary experience: beautifully put together, performed, and not to be missed.

“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