Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me But Banjos Saved My Life won the 2019 Spirit of The Fringe at the Windsor Walkerville Fringe Festival for a very specific reason. There was more spirit in Keith Alessi’s performances this past week than we’ve seen at the Fringe in years. Not only does the one-man performance have a universal theme of hope and celebration, it also had a local flavour for the Windsor shows.
Alessi was born just down the road from the Heimat Windsor Banquet Centre where he was performing and his local references brought the show to new levels, even though it had already won numerous awards in New York City.
A recovering executive, Alessi, reinvents himself as a writer-performer and banjo enthusiast in Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me But Banjos Saved My Life to tell us about a boy’s life, a man’s meteoric rise to business fame, and the shocking event that slammed on the brakes.
Throughout the show, he encourages us to pursue our passions and “look in our closet” to see what passions we’ve been harbouring. For Alessi, that passion was the banjo.
Packed with emotion and inspiration, Alessi’s tale could easily have been my own. His collection of closet banjos closely resembles my own closet of guitars that I can’t play. But after watching his closing show at the Fringe Festival, I felt a deep desire to pick up my own Ovation that was once played on stage at Santana concerts. There’s one big difference between Alessi and myself though – he can now play one hell of a banjo and I can’t.
The show told the story well and was intermixed with enough humour and music to make the hour pass by like it was mere minutes. If you ever get the chance to watch and listen to Keith Alessi tell his story of tomatoes trying to kill him, it’s a life changing show.