Fringe Review: Nashville Hurricane (and a hint of 6 Guitars)
Chase Padgett’s newest show, Nashville Hurricane, opened Friday night to a nearlyfull house at the Calgary Fringe Festival – something that’s pretty amazing by Fringe standards, which usually depend on word-of-mouth and reviews to bring in the crowds, especially on the opening long weekend. Much of that credit goes to the success Chase had with his previous sell-out show from 2 years ago, 6 Guitars. (He was here last year with The Bro Show, which was also popular but not quite as critically acclaimed, and did one performance of 6 Guitars at the end of the Fringe). It probably didn’t hurt that 6 Guitars was also the best-selling show at the Winnipeg Fringe Festival this year.
Nashville Hurricane is a return to the Chase Padgett “brand” in which he plays multiple characters telling stories against a musical backdrop and is co-written with and directed by Jay Hopkins. It is the story of Henry – a shy, geeky, technical and musical genius born of a one-night-stand to a trailer park woman of dubious motherly qualities. After reluctantly appearing in a talent show to help his mother pay the rent, he is “discovered” and pushed to stardom by the unscrupulous, fast-talking “Smoky Joe” and then just as suddenly, he mysteriously abandons fame and fortune for life as the roadie of a blues man (a return appearance of Tyrone from 6 Guitars).
Chase tells the story in a non-linear fashion from the perspective of all four characters and his performance is nothing short of mesmerizing as he weaves from one to the next, forward and backward in time. Compared to his earlier shows, Nashville Hurricane is definitely more theatrical with a lot more narrative. There are lots of laughs and some poignant moments in this show and Chase’s sense of comedic timing is brilliant. Probably the only disappointment is that there is not much of his virtuoso guitar playing, although the two featured songs (“Amazing Grace” and “The Devil Went Down to Georgia”), are, in Chase’s own words, “doozies”.
Chase hails from Florida and is currently living in Los Angeles. Up until 2010, when 6 Guitars gook the Orlando Fringe Festival by storm, Chase did a variety of work in theatre and music, including stints at Florida theme parks (he is from Orlando, after all). He says Nashville Hurricane is an extreme version of his own musical journey. “I first picked up the guitar at the age of 16, having gotten bored with the trumpet,” he said. “I played for hours and hours, teaching myself to play by ear, just like Henry. This led me to studying music at University of Central Florida and taking improv classes, which I just loved. That, in turn, led me to write 6 Guitars.”
“6 Guitars changed my life, “ he said. “I’m now kind of a professional hobo, spending summers in Canada, and focusing on touring at bring-your-own venue opportunities and the North American Fringe circuit.” He says he’s learned so much about every aspect of the theatre business as a result of his Fringe experience, since you have to do everything yourself – from performing to administration to technical production to marketing. “I can recommend it to any young performer who isn’t afraid to be flexible, persevere, and just plain figure it out,” he says. “I call it an “on-your-feet” apprenticeship”.
Chase also really appreciates the camaraderie that comes from performers who do the circuit, who are a constant source of inspiration and encouragement. “I’ve also learned never to take the audience for granted, because you just never know with the Fringe,” says Chase, “One night you may have two people and the next night you may have a full house. I am always filled with a sense of gratitude when people show up and like my show. If I am ever wildly successful – as I hope to be some day – I will have my Fringe Festival audiences to thank for that.”
Both performances on Friday and Saturday night have gotten standing ovations and positive critical reviews. You can add my voice to those that insist that Nashville Hurricane should be on everyone’s “must-see” list at the Calgary Fringe Festival this year. Chase says he may extend the show in future by adding more music, something I think his (music-loving) fans will welcome.
Nashville Hurricane plays at the DaDe Art & Design Lab at 7:15 or 9:15 PM every night until August 10th, with the exception of Wednesday August 7th). You’ll really want to consider getting tickets online for this one, as the show is sure to be popular. They hold back a percentage of tickets for purchase on site the day of the show, but go early in the day if you don’t want to miss out.
For those, like me, who have yet to see 6 Guitars, Chase will be doing a one night only performance on Tuesday August 6 at the DaDe Art Lounge at 9:15PM. On-line ticket sales are already closed, so you’ll need to go early to get a chance of same-day tickets on-site.
If you miss him here, or can’t get enough, Chase is also performing Nashville Hurricane at the Edmonton Fringe Festival next week and he’s doing 6 Guitars in Vancouver after that. Then he’ll be back in Calgary playing guitar and keyboard with Orlando’s SAK Comedy Lab at the Calgary Improv Festival.