Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'The Lion' Roars to Life at City

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

'The Lion' Roars to Life at City

Article excerpt

He comes on like a lamb, does Benjamin Scheuer. Sweet face, pleasant voice, tie askew, he smiles and sails smoothly into a song about a homemade toy that was a father's gift of music to his son.

If you've relaxed back into your seat during the song "Cookie- Tin Banjo," you'd better buckle up. We learn quickly we are embarking on an intense, thoroughly engaging 70 minutes, in which Mr. Scheuer leaves all his emotions on the table.

City Theatre's Mainstage is host to "The Lion," an autobiographical journey by a virtuosic troubadour, armed with a half-dozen guitars. The show won the 2015 Drama Desk Award for solo performance, and Mr. Scheuer has been touring with it, most recently on the West Coast.

This unusual City offering, which originated at Manhattan Theatre Club with director Sean Daniels, is in Pittsburgh through June 5, before "The Lion" heads back to New York for a night then on to Los Angeles.

He is 10, Mr. Scheuer tells us as we move through the journey in chronological order. We learn that his father - the same man who started him on his lifelong love of music - routinely lost his temper and broke his toys. After a particularly rough patch, just before he was about to turn 14, father and son were not on speaking terms. Richard Scheuer died suddenly, without a reconciliation, and guilt overtook the son he left behind.

The thread running through the performance becomes Mr. Scheuer's unresolved feelings about his father.

The Scheuers, with mom Sylvia and two younger brothers, move to her native England, where Benjamin and his bad attitude toward everything except his music are sent to boarding school. There are parts of his life not included in the storytelling - for instance, the 34-year-old was in school with Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne and later attended Harvard - but those details don't fit the confessional mood here.

As Mr. Scheuer matures through the performance, his playing becomes ever more artful, aggressive, with gasp-worthy technique. …

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