The Lion roars at Long Wharf

It was just an ordinary Tuesday night, not even an opening night, but even before Benjamin Scheuer finished singing his song about the definition of a lion, the audience was standing and shouting “Bravo.”  Scheuer is a singer/guitarist; the type that one immediately associates with a folk singer. He has a story to tell and it’s a story only he can tell.

Music is at the heart of his story and is definitely lodged in the heart of this singer. When he starts strumming, his whole body is tightly enveloped in the song including the lyrics and the melody. Beginning when he was a small child and fascinated by the music his father played on his own guitar, Scheuer wanted nothing more than play like his dad. His father, a Harvard grad with a law degree from Columbia apparently wants his oldest of three sons to do more than sing and play guitar. Scheuer has six guitars on stage, including electric guitars, which he played in a teen band. It was a poor grade in math that was the pick that broke the strings. His father forbade him to travel to a concert he was playing in with the school band.

That prompted a nasty letter from son to father, which Scheuer posted to his father’s bedroom door. In spite of his mother’s entreaties to apologize, the young teen would not. In a sudden twist of fate, his father dies, and Scheuer is left with a songbook full of guilt.

In this one-man, autobiographical rendering, Scheuer grows further and further away from his family. He doesn’t understand his mother and he pretty much ignores his younger brothers’ attempts to stay close. A lot happens in his life that keeps turning his world upside down. I won’t reveal the touching and  traumatic things that happen in his life, but I will tell you that  you will be held spellbound by this singing storyteller. If the first few minutes of the show seem like nothing special, just wait until he manages to turn the mundane into the extraordinary.

Written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer, the tightly written piece is directed seamlessly by Sean Daniels. Neil Patel creates a warm set that looks like a room in a warm and cozy house. Ben Stanton’s lighting design punctuates the high and lows of Scheuer’s life with gentle touches of light and somber dark hues when appropriate. Leon Rothenberg’s sound design is consistently smooth.

What works best in this beautifully presented work is that music and family are undeniable forces in one’s life. In a childhood song, Scheuer’s father asks his son what makes a lion a lion. Scheuer responses with “his roar.” That’s what makes this writer/singer a lion of a storyteller. He roars.

Playing through Feb. 7; box office, 203-787-4282

Joanne Greco Rochman is an active member in The American Theatre Critics Association.  She welcomes comments.