An Hour With Song-and-Dance Man Ben Vereen | Connecticut Public Radio
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An Hour With Song-and-Dance Man Ben Vereen

Sep 16, 2015

Ben Vereen was plucked from the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn to go to the prestigious Performing Arts High School because somebody thought he had talent. Influenced by song and dance men like Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr., Ben Vereen garnered accolades for groundbreaking roles in "Pippin," "Jesus Christ Superstar" and "Roots," in which he challenged us to think about race, religion and who can make art.

His path wasn't easy. He was a poor black boy from Brooklyn inspired to rise above his roots by a photo of Arthur Mitchell, the first African-American principal dancer with the New York City Ballet.

His talent landed him role after role on his way to a Tony Award-winning turn in the musical "Pippin," a Tony-nominated run as Judas in "Jesus Christ Superstar," and as Chicken George in Alex Haley's "Roots," an opportunity that allowed him to seek answers to long-held questions about the African-American experience in America. He would later learn a few surprises about his own shaky roots.

Vereen never faltered, even after losing a daughter in a car accident, his own addiction, and his long recovery after getting hit by a car while walking on the Pacific Coast Highway. He's strong, busy, and thankful for his opportunities.

Colin will also talk to Ben Vereen on Saturday, September 26 at 3:30 pm in "Backstage Stories with Ben Vereen," at University of Saint Joseph Arts Center. You can purchase tickets online tickets.usj.edu or at the Francis Driscoll box office 860-231-5555.

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Colin McEnroe and Chion Wolf contributed to this show.