Broadway Global shares the exclusive backstage interview by Motown’s N’Kenge as she witnesses star of The Lion Benjamin Scheuer roar with success. Lucky for our 30 city/state Theatre Chat groups Broadway stars like N’Kenge get the behind the scenes look. N’Kenge had the greatest pleasure chatting backstage with Benjamin who is currently starring in the new Off-Broadway show The Lion. Benjamin Scheuer roars about his new smash hit and amazing career. Diagnosed with cancer Benjamin is candid about writing songs, a book, working with the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society and even shares some criticism!
“I’m Benjamin Scheuer, I’m here from New York City, and The Lion is an autobiographical show. In 70 minutes I play 6 different guitars. I tell some stories, sing, talk about getting sick then better, and I share my relationship with my father and what it means to become a man for me. We all go through the same stuff. We want to feel a little bit less alone in the world, and that’s what The Lion is about.”
N’Kenge; Before The Lion came to this Off-Broadway theater, where was your first performance, and what was the inspiration behind it?
Benjamin: “I first performed some of the songs in the show in the Lincoln Center songbook series, I was performing a record I’d made with my band “Escapist Papers”. The record was called the bridge, and the bridge had on it some autobiographical songs. First I performed with Lincoln Center songbook series, then I was playing around in little coffee shops in Greenwich Village, and I didn’t know what I was going to say between the songs, so I wrote a script. So I had a script, and a score which is, extensively the beginnings of a musical. I chucked out, most of the songs on the record, and wrote 16 new ones. With the help of director Sean Daniels, who I met at the Goodspeed Theatre in Connecticut, we became buddies. We took The Lion which was then called The Bridge after the album, transferred the first draft of the show to the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland in 2012. Among 2,000 shows we were really honored when our show won best lyrics in the festival.”
Benjamin– “I was performing it in a little black box theatre with 3 guitars. There was 1 chair, no set, no costumes and no light changes. We had one microphone that I had to share between my guitar, my vocals and 6 people at a time. When I came back I was offered to do the show at the Manhattan Theatre Club, a fabulous theatre! Performing at the Manhattan Theatre Club the Huffington Post said we were the best musical of the year, so we sold a lot of tickets.”
N’Kenge: It’s amazing what the newspapers and media will do!
Benjamin: “Thank you newspapers! They ran another review this week, and they said I’m in my forties. I’m not in my forties, and they said there is a song in the show called “What Makes A Lion A Lion” and it’s not called that! It’s called “3 Little Cubs”, so #journalism, #factchecking… But you know what, I’ll take the nice review! We went off to London after Manhattan Theatre Club. In London we played at the St James Theatre for 4 weeks there. We had a really great run. The show was a hit and went really well. So now we’re back here in New York, it’s February 2015 and we play through March 29th 2015 here at the Lynn Redgrave Theatre, 6 shows a week. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 5;00 p.m., Saturday at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday at 3:00 p.m.
N’Kenge: So that means, you can get your tickets by the end of March!
Benjamin: You can get your tickets at www.thelionmusical.com and please follow us on twitter at @TheLionMusical
N’Kenge: Fantastic! Please share with Theatre Chat’s examiner fans, who are your mentors? Who are the people that said Benjamin, this is something you should be doing, or maybe even helped you develop the show? How did you get from point A to point C?
Benjamin: “My grandmother told me when I was 18 that I should write musical theatre professionally. I told her she was crazy! She’s alive and well, and now feeling very smug, because she was correct. She’s been a big influence on me. Writer, Composer Andrew Lippa is dear friend of mine… He’s been a great supporter of me in the show, offered me thoughts, wisdom and support. Sometimes a lunch, is when all I needed was a sandwich, and people to stop telling me what to change! My Record Producer Geoff Kraley is producing the songs from The Lion, which I’m making right now. I’m happy that Jeff is producing that album. He produced the opening song in the show, it’s called “Cookie-Tin Banjo” and the Video for the song. It’s an animated video and you can see it on the Inter-webs. It’s fun to hear that song on iTunes, so check it out. It’s called “Cookie-Tin Banjo” and Jeff produced that. Right now we are making the rest of the record. He’s a tremendous influence, he’s also an extraordinary songwriter. Jeff has a band called Paris Monster and Paris Monster is certainly my favorite rock n roll band around right now.”
N’Kenge: We all know it takes a village to raise a child, mentors, people you can believe in, can trust to help you along the way. As musicians we don’t do it by ourselves!
Benjamin: “The Director of the show, Sean Daniels is just the coolest! He’s hilarious and helped me make the show feel real. N’Kenge, don’t laugh, I’m a terrible actor. This isn’t a joke. It’s a true statement. I’m a terrible Actor, whenever I try to act it doesn’t go well. But, I can “just about” play myself! I can tell the truth about my own life. That’s what this show is, truth! It;s not acting. I’m not pretending, it happened! If it get to a place where it feels like bull…., the audience can tell. I was told by a songwriting teacher, if you want to write a good song, write what you don’t want other people to know about you. If you want to write a great song, write what you don’t want to know about yourself. Its’ been great advice!”
N’Kenge: That is very good advice for all songwriters out there! I got to hear a bit of your music when you did a sneak peek at the Players Club with Andrew Lippa as the moderator. It’s wonderful to hear the passion behind your music, and that’s because its coming from you. Its’ coming from your heart, it’s not something that’s fabricated.
Benjamin: “Thank you very much, I appreciate that. I talk about some pretty difficult things in the show, like when I was diagnosed with Cancer. I talk about going through Chemotherapy. I have gotten some criticism on the show, which I welcome. Some say I don’t write poetically, the lyrics aren’t poetic, and I said “absolutely, I agree”! I have no intention of being poetic! To me Cancer is not poetic! Here’s what happened, I’m just going to tell you in the most straightforward way. If you don’t like it because it’s not poetic, then the shows not for you, because as far as I’m concerned Cancers not poetic, but it’s real!”
N’Kenge: It is real. You are living proof of being one of the survivors. That’s pretty amazing!
Benjamin: Yeah, it is amazing! Medicine is extraordinary. I’m working with the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society right now. I actually made a book, while I was ill. I was photographed once a week by Riyah Lerner, she teaches at The International Center of Photography. We put those photographs into a book, along with text from my journal. The book is called “Between Two Spaces”. It is being sold at www.betweentwospaces.com and helps raise money for the Leukemia-Lymphoma Society, which is something I feel very strongly about! I encourage anyone to support them. It’s easy just go to www.betweentwospaces.com and get a copy. They’re only $45, all of the layout is done by my dear friend Lia Strasser. She’s a wonderful artist here in New York as well.
N’Kenge: It’s very remarkable that you’re a survivor, able to tell about your story off-Broadway. What are the plans for this amazing and remarkable show after March?
Benjamin: All of May and the first half of June, I’ll be at Portland Center Stage in Portland Oregon. The show is a huge hit. Our plan is to tour the entire United States at the end of 2016. It hasn’t been announced yet, but I can promise that if people check out www.thelionmusical.com in the coming days, tour dates will be announced pretty soon! So theatre people all around the U.S. I hope I have the honor and pleasure of performing The Lion for you.”
Broadway Global thanks Motown’s N’kenge who shared this exclusive for our examiner readers. N’Kenge performs tonight as soloist for The National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Canada. N’Kenge originated “Mary Wells” in Broadway’s Motown: The Musical. N’Kenge is Queen Ti in the Broadway bound musical Akhenaten: The Musical www.akhenatenthemusical.com. She is also a touring soloist with US symphonies through 2016. This summer she will be singing the role of Mama in Chicago and The Witch in Big Fish with Alpine Music Project. For more info on show dates, visit www.nkengemusic.com or Backstage with Motown’s star N’kenge.
Special thanks The Lion star Benjamin Scheuer, who’s survival of Cancer, writing songs, a book… inspire not just artists but everyone around the globe to roar like The Lion! Benjamin Scheuer in The Lion is a Broadway Global and Theatre Chat top pick! For more information visit www.thelionmusical.com.