American singer-songwriter Benjamin Scheuer’s second solo show A Mountain for Elodie promises to be the stuff of earth and air: fundamental, gritty, essential stuff. He rakes through memories of his childhood as he prepares to become a father, trying to make sense of the loss of his own father – as well as the passing of his personal guitar hero Eddie Van Halen. Add to that songs about how his body’s residual memories of being treated for lymphoma have coloured his sex life, and you’ve got 75 minutes of deeply personal autobiography.
Five guitars (one electric, four acoustic) and two pianos (one adult-sized, the other a child’s toy) offer a musical palette for Scheuer to tell his story. More musical storytelling than musical theatre, with a loose structure that champions song over story, Scheuer’s guitars rarely rest as he slips from lyrics to casual asides and back again.
And yet, for all this vulnerable material, A Mountain for Elodie often feels oddly glossy, with a slickness at odds with its searching themes. Scheuer is a charming storyteller and an expressive musician, but this heavily sentimental show relies on some obvious rhymes and well-worn clichés in a way that feels akin to a veneer. The audience gasps in shock only once, at an ultimatum Scheuer sets his partner about an upcoming tour: “Come with me or don’t.” But it cracks the show’s sugared coating and risks Scheuer appearing unlikable, something the rest of this performance appears unwilling to do.