When Benjamin Scheuer walks onto the Lynn Redgrave Theater stage, picking up an acoustic guitar, announcing he's 10 years old, you believe him. He is about to tell his story in song, accompanying himself with several guitars, instruments he mastered at his father's knee. His one-man show, The Lion, follows him through a Freudian mind field, coming of age under the tutelage of this strict father and finding his own roar; you weep at his misfortunes, particularly loss and then survival, which Scheuer has managed to express so beautifully in his music.
Gina Gershon, Caroline Rhea, Montego Glover, Jeanine Tesori whose Fun Home will come to Broadway this spring, and Richard LaGravenese whose movie of the musical, The Last Five Years, will open this weekend, were among the many well-wishers at Sunday's opening. Director Sean Daniels who helped nurture The Lion through its original highly successful production at Manhattan Theatre Club, and then at the St. James in London, said, audiences respond to Benjamin Scheuer's unique story because it shows that "great things can come from terrible events."
The next night at City Winery, Benjamin Scheuer joined It's Only a Play stars Martin Short and Katie Finneran, Rebecca Naomi Jones and the PigPen Theater Company in celebration of Williamstown Theater Festival. A promotional film had Lewis Black asking the proverbial man on the street what WTF stood for and got "what the f--k" from just about everyone, but then actors, Jessica Hecht and Patricia Clarkson weighed in on the importance of Williamstown to theater production.
This summer's Williamstown program will feature Audra McDonald and Will Swenson in Eugene O'Neill's A Moon for the Misbegotten, Kyra Sedgwick in William Inge's Off the Main Road, and Dominique Morisseau's Paradise Blue to be directed by Ruben Santiago-Hudson. Cynthia Nixon will star in Carey Perloff's Kinship. Jo Bonney will direct.
The current production of The Elephant Man is an example of Williamstown's key role. The project grew out of Bradley Cooper's obsession with the historic Joseph (John) Merrick; the American Sniper star who works hard to mangle his matinee idol looks for this character often tells the story of how the play's revival grew out of Williamstown. Now one of the biggest hits on Broadway, its stars, Cooper, Clarkson, and Alessandro Nivola, are sure to win Tony awards for their stunning performances.
A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.