'The Keep Going Songs' review — a quirky, imaginative song cycle

Read our review of The Keep Going Songs off Broadway, a world-premiere theatrical concert written and performed by the married folk-rock duo The Bengsons.

Joe Dziemianowicz
Joe Dziemianowicz

Everything has a life cycle – people, trees, stage props, you name it. Leave it to the folk-rock duo Abigail and Shaun Bengson to spin that rather mundane reality into a quirky and captivating work that spills over with heart and humor.

A seamless mashup of music and offbeat storytelling, The Keep Going Songs is on brand for The Bengsons. As they survey the subjects of loss, grief, and hope, a hybrid happening unfolds. The production lives up to its promise of being a concert, a wake, and a theatre piece.

“What’s gonna happen?” sings Abigail. “We don’t know!” A beat, then: “We are gonna find out as we go.” The uncertainty could apply to the macro (life), the micro (the show), or both. Either way, The Bengsons don’t fly by the seat of their distressed denims. The show is scripted and carefully considered.

Abigail recalls her late brother Peter and notes that the planet has seen better days. The show winds its way from family recollections to a “hymn for the church-traumatized” to a sobering song about Shaun’s “sad buddies” who harbored death wishes, and beyond.

Crabs also loom large (quirky, as noted), and there’s a chant-like reminder that broken hearts can fill up again. It’s easy to be taken by the way The Bengsons’ brains work and how they make music. Abigail’s vocals are flecked with a subtle twang and an occasional yodel. Shaun sings and plays guitars (acoustic and electric), flute, and bells. They layer on other recorded instruments and vocals to expand the harmonies and sonic party.

Before the 100-minute evening, staged by director Caitlin Sullivan, concludes, there’s a toast to a beloved sibling, a scenic surprise, and some audience participation. The show has a life cycle: It starts with a question and leads to uplift.

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The Keep Going Songs summary

The Keep Going Songs, now in its world premiere with Lincoln Center Theater's LCT3 program, is the latest work from Abigail and Shaun Bengson, married performers known for their evocative folk and rock songs and deeply personal storytelling.

Themes like their own marriage, family, and embracing uncertainty inspired The Bengsons' past works. This new show covers life and death and what comes in between. By threading personal anecdotes and theatrical elements throughout their works, they create immersive experiences and emotional journeys for their audience.

What to expect at The Keep Going Songs

A couple things strike you when you take your seat at the Claire Tow Theater. The tiny stage set, stuffed with instruments and equipment, is framed by a makeshift arch made of stacked wooden crates. Some seats are so close to the playing space that theatregoers can practically adjust the amps. Intimacy is The Bengsons' signature.

So is imagination. You also notice that a twister seems to have hit the set by Cate McCrea. Green lampposts flanking the stage have toppled over. Benches are upended. The sense of aftermath is intentional and fits the show’s themes. We eventually find out that the curtain backdrop was used in Lincoln Center’s 2015 revival of The King and I. Old show, new life.

In a memorable section, Abigail jokingly claims she and Shaun are scientists exploring life and all that it throws at us. “We’ve been doing a lot of research, selfishly, about how to handle the doozies,” she said. She mentions shame and despair. The best antidote, neurologically speaking, is awe. “So we thought we’d tell you four awesome things.”

What comes next are songs about jellyfish aging backward, beasts with blowholes, how trees can be “dicks,” and sexed-up queen bees. After each number, Abigail mimes a silent “Whaaaa? Can you believe it?!” Life packs wonder, even when we don’t know where we’re going.

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What are audiences saying about The Keep Going Songs

The Keep Going Songs has sparked its own share of awe. Theatregoers have admired its charisma, weirdness, and originality.

  • “See it if you’re looking for a live folk music concert delivered by a charismatic & talented couple, singing about life, death and dealing with grief.” Show-Score user GreatAvi
  • “Wild, weird, amazing, beautiful, tear-inducing, and crazy. Fun! Sad! A bit too much for me at times, but would 100% recommend anyways because the parts I enjoyed were so wonderful.” Mezzanine user AG
  • “The Bengsons aren’t like anyone else.” Theatregoer after the show

Read more audience reviews of The Keep Going Songs on Show-Score.

Who should see The Keep Going Songs

  • Those who’ve enjoyed The Bengsons' other shows, such as Hundred Days, about their whirlwind romance, are sure to savor the latest theatrical deep dive into life. Newcomers will too.
  • Viewers of The Bengsons' YouTube videos who want to get a dose of the duo in person are in for a treat.
  • Fans of folk music and warm, acoustic guitar will be in their element as Abigail and Shaun Benson shape observations into theatrical narratives.
  • Theatregoers who like intimate theatre, or are looking for a small-scale evening after a steady diet of big Broadway productions, will appreciate the up-close and personal nature of the show.

Learn more about The Keep Going Songs off Broadway

The Keep Going Songs intertwines music with reflections to create an immersive and emotionally resonant performance.

Learn more about The Keep Going Songs off Broadway on New York Theatre Guide. The Keep Going Songs is at the Claire Tow Theater through May 26.

Photo credit: The Bengsons in The Keep Going Songs. (Photos by Jeremy Daniel)

Originally published on

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