After the preview performance of Chase Padgett's The All New Nashville Hurricane at this year's Orlando Fringe Festival, the artist announced that his Fringe performances are no longer a hobby – they've parlayed into a career for the singer/songwriter/storyteller, who blew audiences away with the 2010 premiere of 6 Guitars. The solo show, in which Padgett plays six different guitar players who specialize in different genres, has since gone on to become one of the most successful Fringe shows on the Canadian Fringe Circuit and has been booked for a performance at the Garden Theater in Winter Garden in November.
After seeing his newest Fringe offering, it's no wonder he's achieved so much success – the guy really does have an uncanny knack for character, timing, narrative and improvisation. His performances, which are generally pretty stripped-down affairs featuring him onstage with a chair and a guitar, are uncannily convincing.
In Nashville Hurricane, Padgett plays four characters – the socially awkward but musically gifted Henry (later dubbed the "Nashville Hurricane" by an unscrupulous manager), Henry's brash and self-absorbed mama, abusive talent manager Smokey Jones, and an old blues musician who befriends the Henry after the shy boy escapes the music world and disappears into anonymity. Padgett slips seamlessly into the skins and voices of each character, and he's shockingly good at giving life to Henry's jaded-stripper mama, aged Alabama bluesman, smarmy businessman or socially disabled boy genius – no makeup, no costumes, no gimmicks. It's simple storytelling at its best, and it's flat-out mesmerizing.
This year's performance of The All New Nashville Hurricane is not entirely new – it's a retooling of a 2012 show of the same name that didn't receive rave reviews from Orlando critics back then. The Sentinel's Matt Palm wrote at the time that the show lacked heart and any truly sympathetic characters. Padgett must have agreed, because he says the entire show was revamped for 2014 – only one line from the 2012 show made the cut, he told the preview audience this week – and the final product audiences will see at this year's Fringe proves to be worth that effort. It's laugh-out-loud funny, engaging and just heartwarming enough to be sweet without crossing over into cloying territory.
Chase Padgett – Portland, Ore.
Length: 75 minutes