Scroogissimo, our seasonal treat, is back Dec 1-15, 2018

December 1 to 15, 2018. Artword Theatre’s delightful Christmas comedy Scroogissimo returns for a fourth time to Artword Artbar. Hamilton’s North End meets Charles Dickens in a wacky script by Ryan Sero and Charly Chiarelli, directed by Ronald Weihs – and the original cast!
Charly Chiarelli as Ebenezu Scroogie
Pamela Gardner as Christmas Past
Paula Grove as Christmas Present
Valeri Kay as Christmas Future, Mrs. Cratchit
Jon-Gordon Odegaard as Bob Cratchit
Jay Shand as Marley’s Ghost and nephew Fred
Musical support by Alex Tomowich on piano.

Bob Cratchit (Jon-Gordon Odegaard) and Scroogie: (Charly Chiarelli)

A sell-out hit in 2013, 2014 and 2016, Scroogissimo features Charly as “Ebenezu Scroogie”, a Christmas-hating old Hamiltonian from Racalmuto, Sicily, who finds himself haunted by three ghosts of the Past, Present and Future.

Show Times and Prices: Wed to Sat at 8:00 pm, Sun matinées Dec 2 and Dec 9 at 3:00 pm. Tickets: Adults $25,  Child 14 and under $10.

Background:

Scroogissimo is performed by the Artword Ensemble, an acting company that has been working in Hamilton under Weihs’s direction since 2008. The company includes Charly Chiarelli, Pamela Gardner, Paula Grove, Valeri Kay, Jon-Gordon Odegaard, and Jeremy Shand, all experienced practitioners of the Artword Ensemble style. Musical support for Scroogissimo in the 2018 remount is provided by Alex Tomowich, an accomplished pianist currently in the Mohawk College Jazz Program. Previous musicians were Jennifer Lockman (2013) and Tim Nijenhuis (2014 and 2016). In 2016 we added the backdrop projections and the aerial rig for Christmas Past, and took the piano off the stage.

The original idea for Scroogissimo came from Charly in 2013, in a conversation with Weihs and Judith Sandiford, Artword’s producer and designer. Charly told them how he used to play his harmonica in an annual production of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens in Kingston. “I only had one line, but after sixteen years, I knew all the lines.”

Ron said to Charly, “Why not do our own version in Hamilton? A North End version.” (Hamilton’s North End, where Charly grew up, was largely inhabited by Sicilian immigrants.) Charly did some of Scrooge’s lines North-End style, and Ron and Judith were soon aching with laughter.

So Charly got to work. He “translated”, from the original Dickens story, all Scrooge’s speeches into North-End Sicilian English. He dictated them over the phone to Judith, who tried to figure out how to spell words like “umbaggo” (humbug). Meanwhile, Ron had casually suggested to Ryan Sero, that Ryan might write the script. Ryan replied, “Be careful what you wish for.” Ryan is well known in Hamilton for his over-the-top comedy productions, including the Fringe hit Romeo and Juliet: An Escapist Comedy.

Ryan took the “Scroogie” speeches, and the original Dickens story and put them through his own zany comedic mind. The result is great fun. There are the ghosts of course (Christmas Present is a pasta-loving lady named Natalia), the parties, the revelations, all with a dash of Marx Brothers, and a touch of the Dickens social criticism.

Ron and Judith have worked with Charly on all his one-man shows about Hamilton. Ron directed, and Judith designed, the first productions of Cu’Fu? and Mangiacake at Artword Theatre in Toronto – productions which were later filmed for Bravo Television. They also brought Charly’s third play in the Hamilton trilogy Sunamabeach to the stage in 2009. In 2017 Artword remounted Cu’Fu? and developed a new play called Charly’s Piano.


Our favourite review, from the first production in 2013: “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 for View Magazine.   (The show is even more fun, as we add new goodies with each remount.)


Gary Smith’s review of the 2018 production in The Hamilton Spectator, December 10, 2018:

Scroogie at Fezziwiggi’s party

Scroogissimo! is delightful and charming

It’s the best Scrooge I’ve seen all year.

With apologies to Charles Dickens, this Hamilton version of the transformation of a crusty old skinflint to a giving and caring benefactor of humanity, will make you believe in something more than ersatz holiday entertainment.

We’re in Hamilton, where Bob Cratchit (Jon-Gordon Odegaard) and his family live at 487 Barton St. Cratchit scratches out a living in the office chambers of Ebenezer Scrooge a wily old Sicilian played of course by the irrepressible Charly Chiarelli.

As in Dickens, you’ll go with those three spirits of Christmas, Past, Present and Future (Pamela Gardner, Paula Grove and Valeri Kay) as they force the grumpy old miser to confront the waste of his life. For the purposes of Ryan Sero and Charly Chiarelli’s sometimes hilarious, always touching script, this Scrooge is known as Scroogie.

Marley’s Ghost (Jay Shand) and Scroogie

Dickens, of course, might well roll in his grave if he saw the antics these characters, based on his originals in “A Christmas Carol,” get up to. The thing is though, the story has been given a modern context, a Hamilton location and at least one character that resembles Harpo Marx without harming its heartfelt intent. It all works, you see, in reclaiming an old reprobate and in fostering the same message of kindness, love and generosity at Christmas Dickens, intended.

Charly Chiarelli gives his usual broad, somewhat off the wall performance he is famous for. He has an interesting capacity for not letting us know how much of the text he’s actually speaking and how much of the evening is supported with comic ad-libs and zingers. It doesn’t really matter because whatever he does it works and it would be difficult to imagine this “Scroogissimo!” without his exuberant presence.

The rest of this fine Artword Theatre cast is up to speed, providing ingratiating, charming and artfully comic performances that adhere to Dickens’ original notions, even if they are flying off in other, less Victorian directions.

Christmas Past (Pamela Gardiner) and Scroogie

And fly these character do. Especially Pamela Gardner’s frisky Christmas Past. She takes to the overhead silks in that Cirque de Soleil way and scares the bejeebers out of poor Scroogie before she even confronts him with all those pathetic moments from his past. She has a terrific presence on stage and highlights everything she does with a warm smile that would heat you up on a cold Hamilton night.

Valerie Kay is the horn-tooting Harpo Marx based Spirit of the Future. She shuffles her way along to a little bit of Cole Porter’s “Anything Goes,” (let’s not call it dancing) and she helps rehabilitate the old miser Scrooge with a shake of her exotic gold wig and her relentless honking of a kid’s bicycle horn.

Scroogie and Christmas Present (Paula Grove)

Then there’s the wonderful Paula Grove. Singing a snatch of “Mambo Italiano” she insinuates herself on stage in a mulberry sparkle dress, with ample peeks at her bold cleavage. All decked out in golden Christmas balls, with a poinsettia firmly plopped in her mane of black hair, she’s the bold and brassy Natalia, The Spirit of Christmas Present. And what a present she is. Her turn is the highlight of a show filled with delirious highlights. Don’t miss her.

Jay Shand as Marley’s Ghost has a delightful laid-back quality about him and he fills the stage with a number of characters that give this “Scroogissimo!” a modern and quirky tweet.

Mrs. Cratchit (Valeri Kay) and Bob Cratchit (Jon-Gordon Odegaard)

Jon-Gordon Odegaard is a remarkable actor who brings such humanity to Bob Cratchit. Every time you see him in an Artword Theatre show he’s totally different. Now that’s a consummate actor.

Judith Sandiford’s projections and Ron Weihs’ direction of this neat little show are completely charming. Things are never forced and the innate warmth and sweetness of the piece never fights with the humour, they just coexist.

Major joy of the evening too, is the piano accompaniment of Alex Tomowich, a tall handsome pianist, who looks like he’s having as much fun as the actors on stage. We get snatches of “Theme from The Godfather,” “Over The Rainbow” and a host of Christmas songs and carols interpolated into the proceedings. Look to hear from this guy in the future because he is a real artist on those black and white keys.

“Scroogissimo!” doesn’t pretend to be anything more than a delightful evening of holiday entertainment. It works splendidly in the intimate space at the Artbar and you’d have to be a Scrooge yourself not to be captivated by its endearing charm.

Gary Smith has written on theatre and dance for The Hamilton Spectator for more than 35 years.

Scroogissimo! returns Nov 29 to Dec 11, 2016

November 29 to December 11, 2016. Artword Theatre’s delightful Christmas comedy Scroogissimo returns for a third time to Artword Artbar. Hamilton’s North End meets Charles Dickens in a wacky script by Ryan Sero and Charly Chiarelli, directed by Ronald Weihs.
A sell-out hit in 2013 and 2014, Scroogissimo features Charly as “Ebenezu Scroogie”, a Christmas-hating old Hamiltonian from Racalmuto, Sicily, who finds himself haunted by three ghosts of the Past, Present and Future.
With the original cast! Charly Chiarelli as Scroogie, Pamela Gardner as Christmas Past, Paula Grove as Christmas Present / Carol Singer, Valeri Kay as Mrs. Cratchit / Christmas Future, Jon-Gordon Odegaard as Bob Cratchit, Jay Shand as Nephew Fred and Marley. Musical support for Scroogissimo is provided by Tim Nijenhuis (keyboard), leader of the blues trio Beg to Differ. Design by Judith Sandiford. Cast photo and poster by Adam Carter.
Tues to Sat at 8 pm, Sun mat at 2:30 pm. Tickets: Adults $25, Student $15, Child 14 and under $10. Tuesdays $10 at door. Please reserve (905-543-8512)

Scroogissimo 2016, Jon-Gordon Odegaard as Cratchit, Jay Shand as Nephew Fred, Charly Chiarelli as Scroogie

Scroogissimo 2016, Charly Chiarelli as Scroogie, is air-borne to Sicily! Pamela Gardner as Christmas Past

New stage design for 2016! We moved the piano down beside the stage, pulled aside the black curtain, and are projecting images on the upstage wall. And now Pamela Gardner, who is an aerialist, can fly in as Christmas Past, and fly off with Scroogie back to Sicily!

Hamilton Ontario, a winter street, for Scroogissimo show.

Raculmuto, Sicily, Charly Chiarelli’s home town, (and Scroogie’s)

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!

http://www.viewmag.com/15095-Artword+Theatre%27s+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?

 

Scroogissimo! a new seasonal comedy, Dec 3-15, 2013

December 3 to 15, 2013. Artword Theatre (at Artword Artbar) presents a new comedy written by Ryan Sero and Charly Chiarelli, based on A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Charly Chiarelli plays a crusty Sicilian north-ender called Scrugi, and our show is called (what else?) Scroogissimo! Throw in a dash or two of zany comedy (Sero-style), some Christmas carols, and plenty of fun. Directed and dramaturged by Ronald Weihs. With the Artword Theatre Ensemble: Pamela Gardner, Paula Grove, Valeri Kay, Gordon Odegaard, Jeremy Shand, with Jennifer Lockman on keyboard.
Where: Artword Artbar, 15 Colbourne Street.
Preview: Tues Dec 3 at 8 pm, $10. Runs Wed-Sat Dec 4-7 and Dec 11-14 at 8 pm; matinées Sun Dec 8 and Dec 15 at 3 pm. Tickets: regular $25, advance $20, children $12
Seating limited. To reserve: 905-543-8512 or online www.artword.net/artbar.

PRESS RELEASE: Artword Theatre presents a new play Scroogissimo! in December 2013

The North End meets Charles Dickens in Scroogissimo!, Artword Theatre’s new play, a comedy based on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. The show runs the first two weeks of December 2013 in the intimate setting of Artword Artbar.  Charly Chiarelli is featured as “Ebenezu Scrugi”, a Christmas-hating old Hamiltonian from Racalmuto, Sicily, who finds himself haunted by three ghosts of the Past, Present and Future. The zany script is by Ryan Sero, with some help from Charly and director Ronald Weihs.

The idea for the play came from Charly, in a conversation last spring with Weihs and Judith Sandiford, Artword’s producer and designer. Charly, who lives in Kingston, was in a big production there of A Christmas Carol every year for sixteen years. Charly said, “I had one line, but after sixteen years, I know all the lines.” Ron and Charly thought, “Why not do our own version here? A North End version.” Charly did some of Scrooge’s lines North-End style, and Ron and Judith were soon aching with laughter.

So Charly got to work this summer. He “translated” all Scrooge’s speeches into North-End English. He dictated them over the phone to Judith, who tried to figure out how to spell the words like “umbaggo” (humbug). Meanwhile, Ron had casually mentioned to Ryan Sero, Hamilton playwright and actor, that Ryan might write the script. Ryan replied, “Be careful what you wish for.”

Ryan took the “Scrugi” speeches, and the original Dickens story, and put them through his own zany comedic  mind. The result is great fun, “datsa fo’ shu.” There are the ghosts of course (Christmas Present is a pasta-loving ample lady named Natalia), the parties, the revelations, all with a dash of Marx Brothers, and a touch of the Dickens social criticism.

The cast also includes Pamela Gardner, Paula Grove, Valeri Kay, Gordon Odegaard, and Jeremy Shand, all experienced practitioners of the Artword Ensemble style, with music by Jennifer Lockman (piano) and Ron “the Fiddler” Weihs.

Artword’s approach to theatre is based on ensemble acting. Instead of using elaborate sets and costumes to depict formal scenes, the actors present the story in a non-realistic, storytelling manner, taking different roles as needed, surprising the audience with sudden transformations, and incorporating music, mime and dance. A high degree of skill and sensitivity is required of the performers, who all participate in the development of the production. The actors in Scroogissimo have all been in previous Artword productions, most recently in James Street and Tobacco Troubadour.

Ron and Judith have worked with Charly on all his one-man shows about Hamilton. Ron directed, and Judith designed, the first productions of Cu’Fu? and Mangiacake at Artword Theatre in Toronto – productions which were later filmed for Bravo Television. They also brought Charly’s third play in the Hamilton trilogy Sunamabeach to the stage in 2009. Last November, Charly was in his first Artword Ensemble show, James Street, performed at the Lyric Theatre.