August 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 9, 2013
Dade Art & Design Lab
How do you follow up on what was by all accounts (mine included) a perfect Fringe show? Two years ago Chase Padgett and his multi-character cabaret 6 Guitars took the Calgary Fringe Festival by storm, wowing audiences and gaining universal praise from all the critics. In fact it was so popular that Chase successfully brought it back to last year’s Fringe, along with a slapdash-feeling new show that didn’t even come close to the prowess or creativity of his first effort. But if there was any fear that he only had one marvellous show in him, Nashville Hurricane puts those worries to rest. Third time out and Chase once again gives us his enchanting multi-character narrative, but this time he lets his acting take centre stage over his playing/singing. The result is a more mature and complex story that tickles our funny bone, breaks our hearts, and has us cheering for some odd and bedraggled characters.
The story concerns Henry, a young, socially inept but frighteningly smart ten-year old boy living in white trash poverty with his tattooed, foul-mouthed, trouble maker of a mother. Henry isn’t much for school, but through reading he manages to achieve stellar scientific knowledge and the ability to put it to use. He even manages to fix his drunken mom’s TV set using only gum and tinfoil. One day picking up his absent father’s guitar, Henry learns that he can see music like shapes or a puzzle and self-diagnoses with synesthesia – a condition where there is a mixing of the senses due to cross-wiring in the brain. Unfazed by this condition, Henry teaches himself music, but only to play for himself. He is far too shy to want to perform for a crowd.
His mother however has other plans. Down on her luck after several entrepreneurial ventures fail (her manure business goes belly up because “folks didn’t like my poop”) she pushes Henry to compete in a local talent show where the top prize was $300. Henry thrills the crowd, wins the prize and gets taken under the wing of a sleazy minister turned talent manager who begins to mold him into the superstar he believes Henry can be. God, the agents tells us, wants us to prosper and by golly Henry just might make all of them rich if all goes well.
However, this isn’t a happy rise to fame story despite the fact the Chase keeps us laughing hard throughout much of the show. In fact it’s the opposite. Nashville Hurricane is really a chronicle of loss – loss of loved ones, loss of freedom, loss of dreams and loss of power – and the potential to find happiness in spite of it. Hey, I told you this was a more mature kind of show. But make no mistake, this maturity doesn’t at all dampen the fun Chase has with these characters or the delight the audience has in their presence. Frankly I could sit and watch a show with no one but Henry’s show-stealing hooligan-with-a-heart mother and laugh hysterically for a full hour.
Writing delicious characters and bringing them to life aside, a Chase Padgett show would not be complete if he didn’t at least play a little guitar and sing. We don’t get much of it in Nashville Hurricane, only two songs. But the finale, which will make you look at a beer bottle in a totally different way is worth the wait. The guitar sits on stage all show teasing the audience and practically making us beg for Chase to pick it up. I’m sure some will say that he didn’t do it often enough. But I’m actually glad he used musical restrain in this show. It turns out the way to top your original Fringe success, is to not give the audience exactly what they’ve come to expect.
For Fringeaholics – Go if you previously saw 6 Guitars. Go if you haven’t. Just make sure you go. SEE IT
For light Fringers – Same as above. SEE IT