A CurtainUp Review
By Elyse Sommer
An enjoyable example of this genre-within-a-genre was Sheree Rene Scott's semi-fictional Everyday Rapture -2010 which featured three backup singers and sandwiched in a "mystery" guest. Scheuer's The Lion is a more straightforward biography that initially seems more suitable for a concert or cabaret venue than a theater. But surprise, surprise! It has remarkably sturdy stage legs. Scheuer pulls you in with his charm and musicality and the unpretentious, opennness that imbues his story with humor, sadness and uplift, without allowing the get-out-your-tissue part turn it into a solo-soapsical.
The show which has had various permutations, including a run at last year's Edinburgh Fringe Festival, is made stage worthy by Neil Patel's unostentatious set and Ben Stanton's mood supporting lighting. The seven guitars that dominate the stage aren't just props. All are played by Scheuer with fine interpretive shadings to represent different aspects of his life — beginning with his introduction to music via a toy guitar ("Cookie-tin Banjo") made for him by his father, to learning to let go of the anger and guilt in the aftermath of that difficult man's death.
The conversational style of more than a dozen theme building songs blends comfortably with the spoken narration of what's essentially coming of age story. The "Cookie-tin Banjo" bookends Scheuer's journey to an understanding of how his father, mother, brothers, girlfriend and serious illness have affected him as a man and a musician. It's a journey that takes us to his early New York City life, the move back to his mother's native England after the father's death, a return to his beloved New York (his "Golden Castle Town"), and the good-bad-good experiences that follow.
The predominantly folk music inflected songs escalate from laid back troubador style to more rousing emotionalism and, when he picks up the electric guitar, some hot rock 'n'roll. Given their close link to the narrative the individual numbers' life is most promising within the show's overall context. But Scheuer is a gifted and insightful lyricist so some do pass the standalone test, notably the ones about his love affair — "Loving You Will Be Easy" I'll Bet Loving You Will Be Easy/no Matter How Difficult You Try To Be" and "Laugh" ("You Make Me Laugh When You Stretch Your Stretchy/Pants Up To Your Neck And Dance Around/ You Make Me Laugh With Your Impression Of A Friendly/Pterydacyls Mating Sound'/"You Make Me Laugh Till I’m Breathless). There's also the potent title song in which Scheuer likens his slowly and painfully acquired wisdom to a the king of the jungle's "finding his roar."
While director Sean Daniels deftly keeps Scheuer moving around the stage, he fails to take the three-sided thrust of this theater into consideration. Except for a very occasional glance at one of the theater's side section and his final bow, the people in the side seats see Scheuer mostly in profile. Substituting a swivel chair for the one from which many of the songs are delivered might have been a simple solution. I wouldn't want The Lion to bring forth a whole pride of lion-sized solo talents to add lots of one-person musicals to the already much done solo play genre. However, this is a winning little show. Judging from the enthusiastic roar from the audience at the performance I attended The Lion hits home with the young as well as the young in heart.