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The Lion at City Theatre

It’s impossible to overstate Scheuer’s enormous charm as a performer

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It was Freud who suggested that no boy becomes a man until his father dies. As with a lot of Freud, it’s hooey. But singer/songwriter Benjamin Scheuer is making Freud’s case as writer/performer of the award-winning, autobiographical one-man show The Lion, currently on tour and having a sit-down at City Theatre.

As a child, Scheuer was enthralled by his pop, a mathematical academic who, on the side, played guitar and instilled in young Scheuer a love of music. But life at home wasn’t all a big Von Trapp fantasy; daddy had a dark side, too — an imperious attitude coupled with fits of rage. It was during the week of a protracted battle between the two that the father died from a brain malfunction, leaving Ben with lifelong guilt and anger.

I was initially downhearted finding myself in the middle of a “Daddy, Why Don’t You Love Me?” story (which, next to plays about suburban infidelity, are my least favorite). And, too, I think guitars (of which the show boasts seven) are the worst thing to happen to music besides the Moog synthesizer.
I bring all that up so you’ll know what an enchanting achievement The Lion turns out to be. Fate has a few more punches in store for Scheuer, and he weaves those events, and his emotional journey, into a work of intelligence and talent.

It’s impossible to overstate his enormous charm as a performer. With the assistance of only Neil Patel’s quietly evocative set and Ben Stanton’s expressive lighting design (plus those guitars), Scheuer creates a shimmering evening in which he pulls us into the action and his life. A musical virtuoso, Scheuer makes the guitars a central element, bringing the exact colors and shading he needs to tell his story. Sean Daniels directs and knows when to push Scheuer forward and when to let him take a back seat to the music.

I don’t know that much about this type of music (which could be described as coffeehouse confessional), but I do know that much of it was moving, and that Scheuer’s performance of it was specific and strong.

There’s a great deal to love about this Lion.

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