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Theater Review: "The Lion"

Benjamin Scheuer wrote and stars in The Lion
Photo credit:
Matthew Murphy

This is the story of a boy, his father and the music that both bound and separated them.

It all started with the gift of a “Cookie-tin Banjo” from his guitar-playing dad, who could have been a musician himself but instead became a mathematician and academic. 

Guitarist/storyteller Ben Scheuer reports that he isn’t much good at math, but he loved that banjo (with strings of rubber bands and a strap made from an old necktie) his dad made for him. In fact, dad passed his love of music on to all three sons.

One day after his dad had given him a small guitar, he offered to teach him to tune. “He showed me the G-chord,” says  Ben. “I’ve never looked back.”

Now Ben uses six different guitars (plus an understudy) to tell his story, depending on the era he’s describing. He talks and sings his own songs in the riveting one-man show with music “The Lion,” playing through Oct. 30 in The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre.

Ben and his younger brothers decide to start a family band, singing about what they will do “When We Get Big.”

One day Ben asks his father if they could play some music. “Sure,” says dad, and plays “Three Little Cubs,” which asks this riddle:

“If the grasshopper is made for hoppin’

And the fly is made for flyin’

If the owl comes round and makes that owl sound

Then what makes a lion a lion?”

Ben thinks it might be the roar.

Ben didn’t escape those awful teen years and the estrangement they brought between him and his dad (especially when Ben expressed interest in learning to play like dad), whose sudden death left him with an unresolved argument to deal with.

Scheuer’s engaging style and song lyrics that ring true make this show work, as he moves from family issues to first love and to his own personal battle with cancer.

In the end, Ben realizes that it’s family that matters and revises his earlier answer to dad’s question: “It’s not the roar that makes the lion, it’s the pride.”

Originally produced last year at the Manhattan Theatre Club, “The Lion” has played at regional theaters around the country since its New York premiere. Catch it here at the Globe while you can.

The details:

“The Lion” runs through October 30, 2016 at The Old Globe’s Sheryl and Harvey White Theatre, 1363 Old Globe Way in Balboa Park.

Tuesdays and Wednesday at 7 pm;  (plus 2 pm Oct. 19); 8 p.m. Thursdays-Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm;  Sunday at 2 and 7 pm. 

Tickets: (619) 234-5623 or theoldglobe.org