Musical artist Benjamin Scheuer is no stranger to heartbreak. He lost his father early into his teenage years, suffered a difficult break up in his adulthood and was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer at the age of 28. For many, such intense trials would be enough to stifle their spark, but Scheuer decided to turn the bad into something good.
“By the alchemy of art, you can make something something good out of something bad,” Scheuer said.
That good is The Lion, a one-man musical told through Scheuer’s voice and many acoustic guitars. The Lion is the story of Scheuer’s life, and it was born out of the songs he was playing at open mics in coffee shops.
“I’m pretty bad at improvising, and so I thought, ‘What if I write down the things I’m going to say between the songs?’’” Scheuer said. “[I’d] be able to connect each two songs, I’d be able to frame them better.”
With a script and a score, he was ready to present the two as one musical performance.
Since debuting at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2013, the autobiographical one-man musical The Lion has played to critical acclaim in New York and London. The show gained traction, and he has since performed over 400 times. He also has performed The Lion off-Broadway, which earned Scheuer a Drama Desk Award for best solo performance.
Scheuer knows that disease and tragedy can be turned into many types of art. His friend Riya Lerner, a professor of photography at the International School of Photography in New York, published a book of photographs she took during the phases of Scheuer’s chemotherapy. Several songs on the record are accompanied by animated videos.
Even though Scheuer spends his nights performing some of the greatest losses in his life, he has a stellar attitude about surviving so much trauma.
“Dying sounds super lame,” said Scheuer. “There’s so much living to do.”
Witness Scheuer’s triumphant journey at the City Theatre through June 5. The album version of the show comes out June 3.
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