In The Lion, Benjamin Scheuer’s one-man musical currently drawing crowds and rave reviews at the Lynn Regrave Theater at the Culture Project, audiences are allowed a stark look inside Scheuer’s life, from the death of his father to the demise of his relationships and the performer’s own battle with cancer.
Despite this heavy subject matter, it’s hard to leave the theater feeling down; it seems nobody makes tragedy as enjoyable as Scheuer. (Which is why he’s taking the show on a national tour after its March 29 New York finale.) But it’s not just the heartfelt songs Scheuer performs, or even his undeniable magnetism, that help to make The Lion such a compelling piece of theater. Ask the man himself, and he’ll tell you some of the credit should go to his suits, which are custom made by the high-end Manhattan tailors at Miller’s Oath.
“When I was getting a chemo therapy, one of the few things I could control was what I wore, and I could take pleasure in the little things in clothing like the thread on a buttonhole, or a particular fabric,” Scheuer explains. “I walked by the Miller’s Oath shop in February 2011, when I was just few weeks into treatment, and I thought to myself, what a beautiful clothes. So I went in and introduced myself to Kirk Miller.”
What began as an order for two linen suits lead to a collaboration on a garment that could work not only as a costume, but as a way to accommodate what’s required of a performer on stage.
“When I started performing The Lion in its earliest iterations, in coffee shops, I wore what I wear everyday: a suit,” Scheuer explains. “When I asked Kirk to make the costumes, we worked closely with the costume consultant on the show and talked about that which the suit would need to accommodate. For example, I wear two microphones in my hair and the wireless microphone packs live in the sack of my back in what is basically a bra. So the jacket and the shirt of my suit needed to contain that. And the left leg needed to be cut differently than the right, because when I play the guitar, it rests on my right leg and it doesn’t move.”
As far as what Scheuer will take on the road with him, he’s not yet decided. “I haven’t had the discussion about costumes yet with the producer and the director,” he says, “but I am excited to go to all of these different towns and think about what I am going to wear and what shops I should go to.” And when it comes to his time off stage, Scheuer says things are just a bit less buttoned up.
“In a talk I recently did, I wore a knee-high corset laced boots with a huntsman cut Saville Row Suit,” he recalls. “I like the contradiction of that sort of thing. What I can tell you is if I weren’t doing The Lion for next two years, my hair would be dyed purple.”