Benjamin Scheuer Tames The Lion: Chemo, Family, Obsession and a Cookie-Tin Banjo

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08 Jul 2014

Benjamin Scheuer
Benjamin Scheuer

Benjamin Scheuer, writer and star of the one-man show The Lion, opens up to about art, illness and his life-long love of performing music.


A surprise charmer of the New York summer theatre season has been The Lion, a one-man autobiographical, coming-of-age musical written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer that tiptoed into town with very little ballyhoo.

Following a New York Times review that called him “a naturally appealing performer with an ingratiating soft touch” and said the show had “a directness and good humor that only the hardest-hearted could resist,” Scheuer and his show are little less anonymous.

The singer-songwriter talked to about the album that led to the stage show and the father who inspired much of the script’s material.

This show began as an album. Is that right?
Benjamin Scheuer: I made an album with my band Escapist Papers. The record is called “The Bridge.” It was made with my old friend and collaborator Geoff Kraly, my longtime producer and editor. We were working on this album. When I found out I had cancer in 2011, this first person I called, after I called my mother, was Geoff. He was in the studio working on the record, and I went to work. The first thing I wanted to do was work on this record. 

All the songs had been written before I was ill except the last track, “The Lion.” I started writing it while I was in chemotherapy and I finished writing it afterwards. And I started performing the record. The first performance I gave was at the Lincoln Center Songbook Series. That was January 2012. I wanted to work out what I was going to say between songs. As I started to perform this record more, I wrote down what I would say between songs more. It seems a better idea than saying, “How y’all doing tonight?”


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