Few entertainers today are as accomplished or versatile as Ben Vereen. His legendary performances transcend time and have become woven into the fabric of this country’s artistic legacy. His electrifying success is the result of rare talent, superb mastery and strong discipline. His first love and passion is and always will be the stage. “The theater was my first training ground. It taught me discipline, dedication and appreciation of hard work and values that will stay with me a lifetime. The stage sharpens the creative instrument and encourages you to go deeper inside and try new things,” states Vereen.
On Broadway, Ben Vereen has appeared in Wicked, Fosse, the critically acclaimed I’m Not Rappaport, Hair, Jesus Christ Superstar, Pippin, Grind, Jelly’s Last Jam, and A Christmas Carol. His role in Pippin garnered him both the prestigious Tony Award and the Drama Desk Award for “Best Actor in a Musical.” Clive Barnes of The New York Post wrote, “Ben Vereen –unquestionably one of the finest performances seen on Broadway.” Vereen has toured the country in Pippin, Sweet Charity, and Hair. Vereen also headlined with Chita Rivera in Chicago, the first Broadway production to play Las Vegas. In 2002, he received the Black Theatre Award.
For over 25 years, Vereen has showcased his versatility and creativity, performing countless one-man shows in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Caribbean. He was the first simultaneous winner of the “Entertainer of the Year,” “Rising Star,” and “Song and Dance Star” awards from the American Guild of Variety Artists (AGVA). He has also earned a coveted spot in the Casino Legends Hall of Fame. Vereen is currently touring his one man show, “Vereen Sings a Tribute to Sammy Davis Jr.,” featuring the music of Sammy Davis Jr.
While performing worldwide, Vereen’s acting credits continue to give us memorable roles that will forever be etched in our minds. Vereen recently co-starred opposite Ciara and Patti Labelle in the Fox Feature, “Mama I Want to Sing,” and opposite Vanessa Williams in the “And Then Came Love.” In 2006, while filming “Idlewild” with the award winning group Outkast, Vereen served as the acting coach for both Andre 3000 and Big Boy.
In addition, Vereen has been coaching the singing sensation Usher both as an entertainer and an actor. Vereen was featured in the movie, “On the One - Preaching to the Choir,” directed by Charles Randolph-Wright. Additional acting roles include the unforgettable Chicken George in “Roots” and as Louis Armstrong in “Louis Armstrong - Chicago Style,” “Anne Rice’s Feast of All Saints,” “Intruders They are Among us” (Emmy nomination), “The Jesse Owens Story,” “Ellis Island” (Golden Globe Nomination), “Lost in London,” “Salute to Liberty Special,” “Christmas in Washington” and “Faerie Tale Theatre’s Puss N’ Boots with Gregory Hines,” and “Zoobilee Zoo.”
His own network specials are “Ben Vereen: His Roots” (Seven Emmy Awards), “Tenspeed and Brownshoe,” and “You Write the Songs.” Vereen’s television guest appearances include “OZ,” “Touched By An Angel,” “Second Noah,” “New York Undercover,” “The Nanny,” “Star Trek: The Next Generation,” “The Jamie Fox Show, Promised Land,” and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” as well as recurring roles on “Silk Stockings,” “Webster, J.J. Starbuck” and “Booker.”
In the early 90’s, he released a number of well-received children’s Sing-Along musical videos. Vereen’s film appearances include “Sweet Charity,” “All That Jazz,” “Funny Lady” (Golden Globe nomination), “Why Do Fools Fall in Love,” the animated movie “Once Upon a Forest” and “The Painting” which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. In 2004, Vereen was nominated for a “Career Achievement Award” by the Le Prix International Film Star Awards Organization.
The lecture circuit has become an integral part of Vereen’s career; as he has become one of the Nations’ most requested speakers among audiences of all ages. His strong sense of social consciousness has enabled him to reach out to his audiences and convey to them a deep feeling of understanding. His topics range from overcoming adversity, arts in education, Black history, motivational topics, recovery through physical and occupational therapy, and the importance of continuing education - to name a few.
Vereen’s gift of time has benefited many organizations. He has served on Ballet Florida’s Board of Directors, The American Red Cross and The American Diabetes Association. In addition, he has served as chairman of several renowned organizations including The American Heart Association and the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Association. In 1989, he spearheaded his own organization, Celebrities for a Drug Free America, which raised more than $300,000 for drug rehabilitation centers, educational programs and inner city community-based projects. The Community Mental Health Council awarded Vereen with their 2004 Lifeline Celebration Achievement Award.
For his humanitarian contributions, he has received a number of awards including Israel's Cultural and Humanitarian Awards, three NAACP Image Awards, an Eleanor Roosevelt Humanitarian Award and a Victory Award. He has received honorary doctorates from the University of Arizona, Emerson College, St. Francis College, and Columbia College in Chicago.
In 2001, Medgar Evers College created the Ben Vereen Scholarship for the Performing Arts, and in 2004 he received an Achievement in Excellence Award from his alma mater, the High School of the Performing Arts. He has served on the boards of Ballet Florida, American Red Cross, American Heart Association and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Association.
In June of 2007, he celebrated Eartha Kitt’s 80th birthday in concert at Carnegie Hall to multiple standing ovations. Three months later, he honored Martin Luther King Jr. in The Dream Concert at Radio City Music Hall and presented the Outstanding Mini-series award for the 2007 Emmy Awards. For Nickelodeon, Vereen provided voice-overs on the show “Wonder Pets!” Recently, Vereen appeared on Lifetime’s “Your Mama Don’t Dance,” “The View,” and NBC’s “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.” Vereen guest starred on ABC’s hit primetime drama Grey’s Anatomy for which he won the Prism Award.