There are exceedingly rare moments in the life of a reviewer when he or she feels unqualified to critique a performance, unworthy of any explanation of what has transpired, content to bask in the glow of greatness. 6 Guitars
is such a moment.
Chase Padgett doesn’t need these accolades thrown at him anymore. After all, he’s performed this one-man show (which is virtually identical to last year's version) multiple times at multiple Fringes, collecting too many awards to count. But he still deserves them.
Padgett – dressed in black and armed with just one black PRS Studio six-string – births before our eyes six distinct personalities during the first 25 minutes of the show. He then spends the rest of the 75-minute performance, which is directed by Jay Hopkins, alternating magically between them, treating us to both musical standards and original compositions. And as if that weren’t enough, he also treats us to spoken musings on life and music, both comedic and dramatic, nailing every characterization, body movement, facial expression and accent.
There’s the nerdy, 20-year-old lead guitarist for the heavy-metal band Dragon Toads of Fury, the nauseatingly sweet folk singer, the Mexican classical guitarist, the leader of the “Beer Barrel” country band and the pretentious but ferociously intellectual modern-jazz virtuoso. And topping them all is Tyrone Gibbons, an 87-year-old black blues god from Mississippi who must be seen to be believed.
Padgett even spends time riffing with the audience in the Orlando Museum of Art’s Gold venue and doing some of the improv that made him a SAK Comedy Lab favorite. Yet this show is about far more than comedy and parody. There’s a great actor hidden here, an astonishing performer who is clearly telling us that, despite the six distinct styles he portrays, music – and, indeed, life – isn’t about the differences. It’s about the similarities.
In one of the many dramatically powerful moments, his classical character talks about a man who pours his soul into making guitars. Not content to carve just any piece of wood, the man searches for a tree that sings to him, a tree that begs, “Make me into what I could be.” Padgett is that man, and Orlando Fringe is that tree.
Chase Padgett – Portland, OR (formerly of Orlando, FL)
Length: 75 minutes
Rating: 13 and up