Los Angeles Theater Review: THE LION (Geffen Playhouse in Westwood)

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by Tony Frankel on January 7, 2017

in Theater-Los Angeles


Watching the Los Angeles premiere of 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 at the Geffen Playhouse.


The songs, which are separated by anecdotes, cover the period of his life from childhood to his twenties, and orbit the singer’s difficult relationship with his father, who died when Benjamin was 13. 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. The tunes in this engaging show also cover both a relationship and Scheuer’s own battle with, and ultimate cure, from cancer.

Benjamin_Scheuer_in_THE_LION. Photo_by_Matthew_Murphy

The Lion is bewitching, both in its intention and in its performance. It is also 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.


It’s clear that he isn’t out to emulate Joni Mitchell, but occasionally the lyrics lack a poetic strength and can be clunky. Some phrases flow so well that they remain long after the show (“My father has an old guitar and he plays me folk songs”) while others land unevenly on the ear (“And I’ll never board a sailboat without thinking fondly of him”). I don’t point this out as a flaw, but as a note that—while it may be advantageous as storytelling in a show—the lyrics aren’t up to the quality of the songwriting, performance and musicianship.

And even though the songs are fashioned in a straightforward, pedestrian manner, there’s a beautiful blend of bittersweet memories and gratitude that shines brightly. At 70 minutes, no one can deny there is something comforting, mesmerizing and life-affirming going on here.


photos by Matthew Murphy

The Lion
Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater at the Geffen Playhouse
10866 Le Conte Avenue in Westwood
Tues-Fri at 8; Sat at 3 & 8; Sun at 2 & 7
ends on February 19, 2017
for tickets, call 310.208.5454 or visit Geffen Playhouse
for tickets, visit The Lion Musical

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