After meeting Benjamin Scheuer at a winter writers retreat in Connecticut in 2013, Sean Daniels knew there was something special about the multi-talented young man and the autobiographical musical he was writing.
He knew Scheuer’s play, “The Lion,” was slated for success,so when Daniels was hired as Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s (MRT) artistic director, he was determined to open the theater’s new season with Scheuer’s critically acclaimed, one-act, solo musical, which is appearing August 26-September 20 in the Nancy L. Donahue Theatre, (50 East Merrimack Street, Lowell). In fact, Daniels directs the production. Scheuer’s appearance isn’t merely MRT’s season opener. MRT is the launch site of Scheuer’s two-year national tour.
In a recent quote, Daniels said, “I always knew I wanted to start the season with the show Ben and I built together. My hope is that in launching the national tour at MRT, I can show local audiences the type of work we’ll be making here, and give them a taste of what the future holds.”
The show opened in New York last year, and has enchanted and captivated audiences here and across the pond, in Edinburgh, Scotland, and London, England. It also caught the eye of theatrical producer- Chelmsford native. Eva Price, whose company, Maximum Entertainment, formed a partnership with others to bring Scheuer’s play to regional theaters throughout the US.
Scheuer’s musical takes the audience on his musical journey from boyhood to manhood, through pain and healing, to discover the redemptive power of music.
What makes Scheuer’s show so special, you ask?
Besides his charming personality, soft melodic voice, and versatility, his story is compelling, starting with his childhood in Larchmont, NY, where his father introduced him to musical instruments.
“As a kid I studied piano, saxophone, and drums, as well as guitar. Guitar was the one I really stuck with [I wanted to be Eddie Van Halen as a teenager],” he said. “Now, I play much more acoustic guitar than I do electric guitar. Though, there is a little bit of electric guitar and my Van Halen influence in the show, ...I just saw Van Halen play in Massachusetts two weeks ago... They still sound amazing.”
Besides narrating and singing his story, Scheuer will play six guitars, mostly acoustic.
Scheuer ‘s relationship with his academician father was rocky. His dad died shortly after Benjamin’s bar mitzvah, so two years later, in 1998, his mother returned to her native Kensington region in London, with him and his younger brothers, Simon and Adam,where he attended an all-boys boarding school and sang in the school choir.
Although his family remained in London, Scheuer returned to the states, graduated from Harvard University with a degree in English, and has settled in New York City.
Tragedy struck Scheuer in January 2011, when he was diagnosed with Stage IV Hodgkins Lymphoma, a type of cancer that originates in the lymph nodes.
“I was 28 years old. Treatment was six months of chemotherapy. My doctor told me that as I got better on the inside, I'd look worse on the outside. I was horrified/intrigued by this paradox, this contradiction of what you see and don't see. It seemed ripe for photography,” he said, “so I spoke with photographer Riya Lerner, who photographed me once every week during my treatment. We put the photographs together into a book, along with text from the journal that I kept. The book is called ‘Between Two Spaces’.
(www.BetweenTwoSpaces.com) Proceeds from the book go to fund cancer research.”
Since then, Scheuer has been cancer-free, writing, performing, and garnering awards for “The Lion”. His story is his own, but strikes audiences to the core. “When I wrote the piece, I never intended for people to ‘identify’ with it, or with me. I had some stuff I wanted to say, and I said it,” he added. “I've learned that oftentimes, when you tell the most personal truth, it ends up having the most universal resonance, because we're all really not that different.”
Scheuer recommends theatergoers check out the animated music videos of songs "Cookie-tin Banjo" https://vimeo.com/99612902, and the show's title track, "The Lion." https://vimeo.com/60453523.
BOX INFO: Multi-award winning one-act, solo, 80-minute, autobiographical musical, written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer, directed by Merrimack Repertory Theatre Artistic Director, Sean Daniels, at the Nancy L. Donahue Theatre, 50 East Merrimack Street, Lowell, August 26-September 20. Check for special related events. Tickets, $23-$60; senior, student, military, group discounts. Visit www.mrt.org or call 978-654-4678; groups of six more, call 978-654-7561.