Ask multi-talented Ben Vereen if he has a favorite role, and he answers quickly.
“For me, employment stands out. Seriously though, I can’t name a single role or a single show as being my favorite. It’s like asking which of my children I like best. And no parent can answer that question. I love them all,” said Vereen, who is set to take the stage at Bristol Riverside Theatre, April 20–22.
At Bristol, the legendary performer will be doing a one-man show titled “Steppin’ Out Live with Ben Vereen,” a blend of artistry and a tribute to Broadway, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and others. The show will feature hit songs like “Defying Gravity,” “My Way,” “Mr. Bojangles” and “Life is Just a Bowl of Cherries,” among others.
“I’ll be sharing stories with the audience, fine tuning the show, and then going on to New York, where ultimately,” said Vereen. “I hope to take it on to Broadway.”
Vereen is certainly no stranger to Broadway, having performed in some of the most notable Broadway productions of all time. A Tony and Drama Desk Award winner for his renowned performance in Bob Fosse’s “Pippin,” Vereen’s other Broadway productions include “Wicked,” “I’m Not Rappaport,” “Chicago,” “Hair” and “Fosse.” among others.
Some of his film appearances include “All That Jazz,” “Sweet Charity,” “Funny Lady” (Golden Globe nomination), “Once Upon a Forest” and more.
Additionally, Vereen has performed in regional theaters, dramas, variety shows and television series, including one of the most highly-acclaimed and enduring series of all time: “Roots.”
Vereen became a household name for his Emmy-nominated performance as Chicken George in the legendary mini-series. And after all these years, who would have thought the series would still be alive and well.
“The series and my role was magnificent and something for which I will always be grateful,” Vereen says. “And today, some 35 years later, we are still talking about it. I just did a show on Oprah looking at it and a documentary for PBS. At the time we did the series I don’t think any of us had any idea the impact it would have on civilization and generations to come. But it’s still going strong thanks to a man named Alex Haley who wrote about things that had to be heard by the world.”
Born in Miami and raised in Brooklyn, Vereen knew he had talents but didn’t take the world of show business seriously until he enrolled at Manhattan’s High School for the Performing Arts.
Upon graduation, others began taking him seriously too. And after decades in the business, receiving a variety of awards, including Entertainer of the Year, Rising Star, and Song and Dance Star Awards from the American Guild of Variety Artists, Vereen is still going strong.
His humanitarian awards include three NAACP Image Awards, an Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award, and a Victory Award. Vereen was recently inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame.
Additionally, he has become one of the nation’s most requested speakers, among audiences of al ages, on topics ranging from Black history, art and education, to overcoming adversity. He is also the spokesperson for Start Taking Action Now (STAN), a national effort in his desire to help others through diabetes, the disease that hit him several years ago.
“My goal,” he says, “is to help people understand that they can live well with diabetes if they will just take charge and make a few necessary changes in their lives.”
For times and ticket information, call (215) 785-0100.