Review: 'The Lion' at Merrimack Repertory Theatre
As I sit here thinking about the musical production I just experienced, my mind is flooded by how overwhelmingly incredible it was. It wholeheartedly deserved the standing ovation and encore it received.
The Lion is a true story, written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer, and is unlike any show I have ever seen and is far better than many I have. Walking into the theatre last night I didn’t know what to expect from this show. Like most people in the audience I knew it was a one-man musical and was curious how it would all play out. As I looked toward the stage, I admired the ring of lights that hung over the intimate set. Strategically scattered around the set were six guitars, including one back-up. A seventh was carried on when the show began. These guitars were additional characters that all had their place in the life and story of Ben.
The show begins as we are introduced to ten-year old Ben who sings “Cookie-tin Banjo” and tells the story of how he found music. This first song instantly draws the audience into the life and mind of young Ben and we feel the joy he felt when he first learned the G-chord from his Dad. He mentions later in the show that his connection to his dad is music and though as a child he wanted to learn to play like his dad, as an adult he learned that he needed to learn to play like himself.
It’s not long into the show before the audience is chuckling as we listen to Ben’s big idea of starting a family band and how it didn’t play out like he imagined. His recollection of his father shows how people have different sides of themselves that they show to certain people. While Ben saw the harsh, abusive side of his father, the outside world saw a kind, respectable man who was a wonderful husband and father.
As Ben grows older we hear him sing of family dynamics, childhood tragedy and using music to fill a void and bring him joy. He sings of a love who made him laugh and the loneliness he felt when she went to find herself. He sings of the uncertainty of life and how through the most difficult times reconciliation can be found.
The song “The Lion” towards the end of the show is heartfelt and pure. A line he sings in the song, “sometimes being brave is being scared”, is a statement that is true to life and is one that I will always remember.
One thing that makes a great musical and is at the core of The Lion is truth; truth about family, truth about relationships, truth about growing up, truth about finding yourself and truth about pain, both physical and emotional. These truths are universal and it may be why this play resonates in the hearts of audiences.
Music is such an essential part of this story that it couldn’t be told in any other way. Benjamin’s vocals throughout the show are incredibly strong and captivating. His guitar playing is unequivocally fantastic. He is a gifted song writer, masterful storyteller, and performs with true heartfelt passion and a smile that can light up the whole stage.
This 80 minute musical experience is one of the best I have ever had and I highly recommend attending a performance of The Lion. It is nourishment for your soul and you will leave feeling inspired and very likely changed.
The Lion plays at Merrimack Repertory Theatre until September 20th. Tickets and more information can be found at www.mrt.org/lion. For other locations, dates and information about the National Tour visit http://www.benjaminscheuer.com/events/
For more of my reviews and theatrical thoughts check out: intheatresome1isalwayswatching.blogspot.com