In Ashley with a “Y (at the Toronto Fringe Festival), Second City vet Ashley Botting invents around 10 songs on the spot, drawing topics from a punchbowl and then improvising with a live pianist (Scott White).
It’s an ambitious exercise, and the thing about Botting is that she’s so damned charming and #Relatable that I would forgive her almost any sin. Luckily, I don’t have to.
While this is the first time she’s done it in this format, improvised music is nothing new for Botting, and her skill with the craft shows. She and White move in perfect unison, seamlessly jumping keys and genres while she cranks up the punchlines.
What I found most remarkable about Botting’s improvised lyrics is that she isn’t just idly rhyming or riffing on the theme: she appears to plan the whole thing out, setting up her biggest laugh-lines stanzas ahead and avoiding blind alleys.
My one wobble is that the structure of the show does need some ironing out. On opening night, the performers almost backed into a high-energy showstopping number which would have been a tremendous end to the show… and then went two songs further, neither one really recapturing the energy. It left the audience walking out on a middle note instead of a high one. But, hey, it’s an improvised format: these things get fixed over the run.
And, like I said at the beginning, Botting’s such a performer that any foibles and mulligans only warm the audience up. We want to see her succeed, and she does — over and over and over again.
- Ashley with a “Y” plays at the Factory Theatre Studio. (125 Bathurst St.)
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (707 Dundas St. W.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warnings: Audience participation; Mature language.
- The Fringe Festival considers this venue to be wheelchair-accessible.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- Thursday July 5th, 6:00 pm
- Saturday July 7th, 12:15 pm
- Monday July 9th, 11:00 pm
- Wednesday July 11th, 6:00 pm
- Friday July 13th, 9:30 pm
- Saturday July 14th, 4:00 pm
- Sunday July 15th, 7:45 pm
Photo of Ashley Botting by David Leyes.