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British Columbia

Corporate highs, cancer lows and banjo clawhammering in ‘Tomatoes’ show coming to Surrey

Keith Alessi is neither a trained actor nor a professional musician, and his hit show should remain unique.

“Instead,” he says, “it took on a life of its own.”

Tomatoes Tried to Kill Me But Banjos Saved My Life is now touring North America and Europe and is en route to Surrey. It’s a candid exploration of Alessi’s journey from magazine cover CEO to banjo-playing storyteller in the glare of a cancer diagnosis that probably should have killed him by now.

Alessi’s award-winning solo show comes alive with music, laughter and an uplifting story, which premiered in Toronto in 2018, some three years after he quit his job as CEO of a public company. Days later, he was told he had end-stage esophageal cancer, which doctors told him he had heartburn from eating tomatoes.

For years the part-time Vancouverian collected banjos from here, there and everywhere, and Alessi puts some of his favorites to good use in ‘Tomatoes’, set in a Surrey Civic on the main stage of the Surrey Arts Center on Saturday February 11th theatrical performance.

Every word of the script is true, Alessi insists as he tells his story of growing up in Virginia, first loving banjo sounds when he heard the theme song “Beverly Hillbillies,” making a name for himself in the corporate world, banjos in his in his closet and then discovering them when he needed them most to fulfill a dream, expertly clawing them.

At Maple Ridge, Alessi performed for the 238th time on Friday, January 27th in a special night that shared the spotlight with guitar/banjo duo Pharis & Jason Romero, mandolin player John Reischman and bassist Patrick Metzger and added $600,000 to the He Raised for various cancer charities. It’s his mission to do that with Tomatoes, which Alessi, 68, also lists in “Retirement Years,” a time when he doesn’t really need the extra income.

As for awards, the show won three awards at the Frigid Fringe Festival in New York City and honors at the Windsor, Edmonton and Vancouver Fringe Festivals. Last year, Alessi dated for a month at the world’s largest performance festival, Edinburgh Fringe, in Scotland.

For tickets and more details about the Surrey show date mid-month, visit tickets.surrey.ca or call the Arts Center box office, 604-501-5566.

For more information on the performer, visit keithalessi.com.

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Arts & EntertainmentMusicSurreyTheatre

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