HEAR BEN SCHEUER ROAR IN “THE LION”


BONNIE GOLDBERG

If Ben Scheuer opens his heart, music is clearly going to pour out. From the time he was two or three, he was at his father’s knee inheriting a love of the guitar and folk tunes. His deeply personal and heartfelt journey from boyhood to adulthood, from lion cub to mighty beast, is captured in “The Lion” on Stage II of New Haven’s Long Wharf Theatre until Sunday, February 7.

Using six unique guitars, that produce a variety of sounds, from gentle and sweet to fierce and roaring, Schemer has taken his special story and wedded it to his love of storytelling and guitar songs. This incredible evening begins with his dad taking rubber bands, a red necktie and a cookie tin and making him a “Tin Cookie Banjo,” a toy that started Ben’s odyssey to create song. Wanting to play like his father, Ben soon desired a new and real guitar of his own and the instrument quickly became his greatest source of joy. He always credits his dad, whom he labels as Saint Rick, with giving him the gift of music.

Their relationship hit some sour notes over the years, especially when Ben became a teenager. A particularly difficult moment occurred when they clashed over Ben’s poor grades in math, his scholarly dad’s area of expertise. His dad’s anger over his grades and Ben’s response to that criticism culminated in a life-altering crisis when his dad dies suddenly. The boy is forced to become a man and is consumed with the guilt that he may have caused his father to die. A deeply moving tune “Weather the Storm” expresses his agonizing personal battle about his part in his father’s demise, a theme that is destined to plague him for years to come.

No thoughts are held back as Ben fights his way to adulthood, from meeting a girl named Julia on a train, for whom he writes the delightful “You Make Me Laugh,” his alienation from his family, his talk with his dad at his cemetery thanks to Julia and his need to face his fears and build bridges of understanding. He excels at revealing the things he doesn’t want people to know about him, the things he is afraid to face, in telling the truth warts and all. As therapy and catharsis, his musical storytelling is moving and meaningful. Sean Daniels directs this redemptive piece, presented in conjunction with Eva Price.

For tickets ($25-85), call Long Wharf Theatre, 222 Sargent Drive, New Haven at 203-787-4282 or online at www.longwharf.org. Performances are Tuesday at 7 p.m., Wednesday at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Long Wharf will present Discovery Day 2016: The Dream Factory on Saturday, January 23 beginning with registration at 9 a.m. and the free events, dress-up, storytelling, building box cities and making musical instruments all support the theme of imagination in the theater. On Monday, January 25 at 7:30 p.m., Long Wharf will host a “Sing Your Story” Contest to celebrate the music of Ben Scheuer. Hosted by Chenot Keith, lead singer of New Haven-based indie pop favorite Mission Zero, the evening will showcase original songs by local musicians. The winner will earn four hours of studio time at Baobo Tree Studios on Orange Street in New Haven. Tickets are $5.

Come connect with Ben Scheuer as he exposes his soul to a depth of honesty and raw pain and ecstatic joy rarely experienced on stage.

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