Off-Broadway Theater Review: THE LION (Lynn Redgrave Theater at Culture Project)

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by Dmitry Zvonkov on February 8, 2015

in Theater-New York


Watching writer/performer Benjamin Scheuer’s one-man show The Lion, directed by Sean Daniels, the element I am most taken with is Mr. Scheuer’s radiant charisma. His earnestness, his sincerity, his spiritual and emotional investment, are penetrating as he tells his story, mostly through songs, accompanying himself on different guitars—six in all—which await on the intimate stage.


The songs, separated by anecdotes, cover the period of his life from childhood to his twenties, and orbit the singer’s difficult relationship with his father. We learn that in a different life the father might have been a musician; in the one he had he was an Ivy League-educated lawyer and math professor married to a beautiful British expatriate. But it was his father’s guitar playing that little Benjamin was desperate to emulate. Sadly, he’d never get the chance.

Benjamin_Scheuer_in_THE_LION. Photo_by_Matthew_Murphy

The Lion, its intention and performance, left this critic so enamored that he is reluctant to point out flaws. The audience certainly seemed united in their adoration; hardly any remained sitting during the standing ovation. And, as my companion points out, it is a perfect show for thoughtful teenagers, especially those with musical storytelling aspirations. Mr. Scheuer’s singing and guitar playing are moving and solid; they work well in this show.


The problem lies in his lyrics. Jarring and clunky on purpose, they are written less like rhyming poems and more like stories being told to music—a legitimate choice. Unfortunately, these stories, while containing potential for drama, are fashioned in a straightforward, uninteresting way; they are often dull and mostly banal, at least in their presentation. And except for the song in which Mr. Scheuer lists all the ways in which his girlfriend makes him laugh—such as by vocalizing an amorous pterodactyl’s mating call—his words lack surprises and nuance. This shortcoming bothers some more than others, and if you’re ok with it, go see the show, you will love it. And even if you’re not, chances are you’ll still have a ball.


photos by Matthew Murphy

The Lion
Lynn Redgrave Theater at Culture Project, 45 Bleecker St
Wed and Thurs at 7:30; Fri at 8; Sat at 5 & 8; Sun at 3
ends on March 29, 2015
for tickets, visit The Lion Musical

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