This review was originally written for The Public Reviews.
The opening deep and affecting song about his father making Ben Scheuer a cookie tin banjo lays out the history and background of this solo autobiographical performance of song and storytelling. The folksy tune catches your attention immediately, setting up his emotional attachment to his father and music. Scheuer possesses an intriguing mix of charming modesty along with a streak of self-assured cockiness that he easily gets away with.
Scheuer’s personality comes through in his excellent skill as a guitarist and a deft grasp of lyrics that is economical and packs a devastating emotional punch.The tuneful number The Lion may start out like a nursery rhyme posing questions such as what makes a bee a bee and what makes a lion a lion. This morphs into an introspection on his own identity and becomes especially poignant on reprise.
The story arc flows through his relationship with his father, music, and his growing up in New York. His angst regarding the relationship during boarding school manifests itself in a rebellious stint on his electric guitar.The variations around the pop/folk music style include his subsequent meeting of a girl on a train which is retold as a ballad with a funny, throw-away but deeply affectionate song about her.
As life gets in the way, the tone takes a darker turn. The challenges and reality of life overwhelm the beauty of the show and the performance. And while Scheuer sits in front of us, the ending is never in doubt. In the end, the reinforcement of his love of life and family makes a perfect bookend to the show.
This is a performance at its simplest: just Scheuer and six guitars, telling us about his life. It is also storytelling and music at its best: direct, entertaining and engaging.
Photo: Bronwen Sharp