The Lion at Portland Center Stage

On Friday, I attended the opening night of The Lion playing in the Ellyn Bye Studio at Portland Center Stage from May 2 — June 14, 2015. Written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer and Directed by Sean Daniels, the description of the show The Lion reads:

One man, six guitars, and a true story of love, loss, family loyalty, and the redemptive power of music.

The Lion is a candid, poignant, charming offering from a next-generation troubadour.

The Lion  Photo © 2014 Nilaya Sabnis.  Written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer Directed By Sean Daniels May 2 - June 14, 2015
The Lion Written and performed by Benjamin Scheuer Photo © 2014 Nilaya Sabnis.

The Lion premiered in 2014 at got raves in New York during its commercial run Off-Broadway, with reviews such as

“Mr. Scheuer seems to have found a measure of redemption by exposing his own, with a directness and good humor that only the hardest-hearted could resist.” – The New York Times

“Scheuer’s songs are miniature monologues and short stories you’d otherwise expect to find in The New Yorker. The lyrics are smart and highly detailed, the music sweet and satisfying…” – Theatermania

“Poignant and unexpected! Benjamin Scheuer’s songs are powerful, charismatic, and easy to become lost in.” – NBC New York

“For Audiences, Loving Ben Scheuer Will Be Easy… he’s the kind of debonair that reminds you of F. Scott Fitzgerald, a lit match, and whisky on the rocks.” – The Huffington Post

The story of the Lion is at a high level, an autobiographical tale through 16 or so songs that deals with the relationship and legacy of a father and son, and about perseverance from the painful things that may happen in life and are out of your control.

“Truth gets revealed when you’re broken and healed,” Benjamin sings. “Every heart is made stronger by scars… It’s the way that we weather the storm”

Benjamin Scheuer performs “The Lion” at Portland Center Stage. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/
Benjamin Scheuer performs “The Lion” at Portland Center Stage. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/

With his strong smooth voice, charismatic presence, and then the heartfelt, intimate musicality of his songs, it’s easy to identify with Benjamin. At first The Lion seems easy going and folksy with it’s start with childhood. It is as if you are at a house living room party together late after dinner and rounds of strong drinks on, telling stories and talking about memories.

But, then the narrative and the music gets into loss. As we follow Benjamin through time, the music and lyrics grow from his impetuous youth and typical initial musician exuberance to more reflection and sifting through multiple complex emotions at once as he matures in adulthood.

Now that you feel like you are friends with Benjamin, he will bring tears to your eyes as if that regret and longing is partially reminiscent of your own somehow. He weaves through a boy and his father, a boy out on his own, a boy and his mother, falling in love, the key that another person can unlock in yourself, about growing apart, battles, family, disappointment, anger, waiting, recovering, understanding the past in a new light, gratefulness. This is not just a story about him and his journey, but tugs at your own past and current parallels to his tale.

The music and sincerity of his performance takes you from listening to a story to resonating emotionally with the heart he is baring open to you and in doing so, opens your own heart to yourself. Don’t worry that you’ll be bawling though or the show is overly manipulating your heartstrings – there is a balance of quips of humor interspersed throughout that has you laughing through your tears. Music is the medium to the tale, but also is the tale – it is the connection to his father, to himself, and between all of us in the theater.

If you haven’t been to the Ellen Bye Studio yet, it’s a small theater where the configurations are very flexible but in general you are never very far from the stage and performers. Pretty much every seat is a good seat, and they are all unassigned, so it’s first come first serve when they open the doors. It feels like you are right there in the living room with Benjamin throughout the play, just one of a small group of friends.

Benjamin Scheuer performs “The Lion” at Portland Center Stage. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/

Benjamin Scheuer performs “The Lion” at Portland Center Stage. Photo by Patrick Weishampel/

Performance Times and Prices (Wheelchair and youth/student tickets $20-25. See more details and other ticket specials for groups or military here):

  • Evenings: 7:30 PM: Tues, Wed, Thurs, Sun ($50) and Friday or Saturday ($55)
  • Matinees: 2 PM Saturday and Sundays ($40) or Noon on Thursdays ($40)
  • Note: Tickets to show in the studio are general admission: a ticket reserves you a place for a specific performance, but not for a specific seat so it’s first come first serve as you enter the theater. They open the doors about 20 minutes or so before the showtime.

The run time of the play is about 75 minutes with no intermission. The Lion is recommended for ages 13+ because of use of mature language, children under 6 are not permitted at any PCS production. Because of the small nature of the Ellen Bye Studio, there is no late seating or re-entry.

Disclosure: I was invited to see this production, but I will always provide my honest opinion and assessment of all products and experiences I may be given. The views and opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own



  1. What a beautiful recap! I am really thinking of going back 🙂

  2. What an interesting way to mix music and theater! Sounds like a great production.


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