Multitalented Ben Vereen lovin’ his busy life
If you’ve never seen Tony Award-winner Ben Vereen perform on Broadway, he’s bringing a taste of his work to you.
His one-man show, “Steppin’ Out Live with Ben Vereen,” comes to North Central College in Naperville April 12 for an 8 p.m. performance.
The show features tributes to Broadway, Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr. and include songs like “Defying Gravity,” “Mr. Bojangles,” “My Way” and “Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries.” He fills the show with song, dance, storytelling and humor.
“It’s a tribute to my audiences, is what it is,” he said. “It’s songs I’ve done or they’ve seen me do, and also stories that they do not know. This is the foundation or the formula that we’re using for the bigger show, the Broadway show. This is the essence of that show.”
Vereen has starred in numerous Broadway productions, including “Wicked,” “Chicago,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Fosse” and more. It was his role in “Pippin” that earned him the Tony Award, as well as the Drama Desk Award for Best Actor in a Musical.
He’s also known for his iconic role as Chicken George in the TV miniseries “Roots.” He has had recent guest turns in TV shows such as “How I Met Your Mother,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” Tyler Perry’s “House of Payne” and co-starred in the Emmy-nominated, made-for-TV-movie “An Accidental Friendship,” which earned him an NAACP nomination.
With this long and storied career, choosing material for a one-man show was a challenge.
“It’s hard to cut that down into two hours or an hour. It’s done with great difficulty and care,” he said. “I’m very selective. What’s wonderful about doing concerts is you can change it up as you go. Broadway is more of a book, whereas (with his one-man show) I can change it up on any night.”
When he’s not acting, he tours the country as a speaker and lecturer, discussing such topics as
“Overcoming Adversity,” “African-American History” and “Broadway Lecture with Song.”
His show also reflects times the country has gone through, he said.
“My career happens to be a part of it, thanks to my audiences,” he said.
In between concerts and speaking engagements, he’s still acting. He’s currently working on a film with Richard Gere called “Time Out of Mind.” He and Gere play a couple of homeless men.
“I’m just living life … keeping busy,” he said.