BWW Review: In THE LION, Writer/Performer Benjamin Scheuer Offers a Heartfelt Glimpse into his Life Through Song
In the program notes for the Los Angeles premiere of Benjamin Scheuer's one-man show THE LION he states that "a song is a powerful tool for connection. Words are how we think and music is how we feel, so songs allows us to think our feelings and feel our thoughts." As such, he masterfully shares the story of his many struggles in his autobiographical Drama Desk Award-winning solo show at the Geffen Playhouse through February 19.
Scheuer goes on to share, "Writing THE LION required me to dig deeply and honestly into my own experience and emotions. I had to remember what it felt like to watch my father die when I was 13, what it felt like to go through my own battle with cancer when I was 28, and then write about these experiences with clarity and honesty." And trust me, he has succeeded, as he delivers his subject matter with such heartfelt emotional punch, you can't help but be drawn onto his pain, joy, and disappointment as his life unfolds in ways he never could have imagined.
The experience of being in his presence in the small Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse took me back to sitting on floor pillows in a tiny coffee house during the 60s while listening to folk music singers such as Donovan share such deeply personal or dreamlike tunes that you could not help but be drawn into their world and/or imagination of how the world should be.
Scheuer is a mesmerizing performer/musician and being in his presence as his emotions exploded through his song lyrics as he shared the turbulent story of his family life, how his father inspired his son's musical talent by creating a "Cookie-tin Banjo" so he could play along with him from a very early age, meeting his first love Julia on a platform at Grand Central Station, to his own brush with mortality, all the while accompanying himself with his supporting cast of six guitars. It is a theatre experience I will not soon forget. Like its hero, THE LION roars
His life story moves along at a rapid pace during the 70-minute running time, thanks to the performer's skill and director Sean Daniels making sure each audience member feels connected personally to Scheuer as he positions himself about the stage, often breaking the fourth wall by speaking directly to audience members. Lighting designer Ben Stanton expertly enhances the show's strongest scenes by perfectly accentuating Scheuer's features with shadows that reflect on the deep pain within his soul.
I encourage you to listen to select songs and view more music videos at thelionmusical.com. And be sure to catch THE LION during its final run performed by its writer Benjamin Scheuer following a two-year tour through the U.S. and U.K. Performances continue at the Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse through Sunday, February 19, Tuesday-Saturday at 8pm, with matinees on Saturdays at 3pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets are priced from $60-$82 and are available in person at the Geffen box office at 10886 Le Conte Ave., Los Angeles 90024, or by phone at (310) 208-5454. More show information may be found at www.geffenplayhouse.org.